St. Catharines Councillor joins in call for NPCA audit

City council to debate motion requesting audit tonight

Dec 05, 2016 – by Amanda Cheevers – Niagara This Week – St. Catharines

 

ST. CATHARINES — City council could soon join the chorus of Niagara politicians calling for an audit of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority.

Port Dalhousie Ward Councillor Bruce Williamson will table a motion at Monday night’s meeting joining in the call put out by Welland riding MPP Cindy Forster for an audit of the conservation authority that was created to manage the impact of human activities, urban growth and rural activities on the Niagara Peninsula Watershed, encompassing not only the entire Niagara Region but portions of the City of Hamilton and Haldimand County as well. Forster’s call for an audit has already been supported by Niagara Falls riding MPP Wayne Gates and Williamson is hoping St. Catharines city council will follow suit on Monday night.

I’ve been following what’s going on with the NPCA for some years now, under the new regime, and I’m not impressed with what I see,” he said, referencing recent staffing changes as well as increased spending on legal fees and advertising dollars to respond to criticism. “They say they’re transparent but what they’ve actually done is shut the door to anyone with questions or criticism. That’s not how a public agency should operate.”

With St. Catharines contributing the single largest local tier municipal contribution to the NPCA, he said it’s important council pays attention to what is happening at the authority and ensure the organization is following its mandate.

“There seems to be a groundswell of people lately coming forward with their concerns,” Williamson said.

His motion requests a letter be sent to Premier Kathleen Wynne and Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry Kathryn McGarry urging the province to immediately initiate an appropriately thorough investigation and forensic audit of the NPCA.

Forster previously wrote to the Ministry of Natural Resources calling for a forensic audit. This matches a similar call made in a 45-page report, A Call for Accountability at the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, written by a citizens’ group in the area.

Ed Smith, an activist who is facing legal threats from the NPCA for distributing copies of the aforementioned report is also on the agenda to speak at Monday’s council meeting, as is NPCA chair Bruce Timms.

A rally to show support for an audit of the NPCA is being planned for Monday night at City Hall. The rally, hosted by a few St. Catharines residents, is set to start at 5 p.m.