NPCA board showdown brewing
NPCA acting chair says Niagara only gets five board members, Region says it has 12
The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority could be headed for a political and legal showdown as current and past board members argue over who should govern the agency.
A group of 12 Niagara regional councillors appointed Thursday evening as an interim NPCA board are ready to begin their work at the next scheduled authority meeting on Dec. 12.
However, the board’s acting chair, James Kaspersetz of Hamilton, and the agency’s recently appointed interim CAO Lisa McManus, say that is seven board members too many.
“I am happy to see the Niagara Five take their seats,” said Kaspersetz. “What are the others doing to do? Sit around in protest?”
Meanwhile, at least one former board member — ex-St. Catharines regional councillor Bruce Timms — said he is not sure he will relinquish his seat on Dec.
“I will fulfil my legal obligations, whatever they are, to the best of my knowledge. Not entirely clear yet,” Timms said in an email.
At issue are the rules governing the composition of the NPCA board.
For over 20 years, Niagara Region has appointed 12 people to the board, while Hamiton appointed two and Haldimand had one.
Those numbers were established by a 1994 provincial government directive, which became invalid four years later.
The status of the directive was largely unknown until former NPCA chair and ex-Fort Erie regional councillor Sandy Annunziata recently insisted its process of selecting the next board, which has never been used, is “the law.”
The Ministry of the Environment said this week that since 1994 rule is defunct, the number of board members is decided by the Conservation Authorities Act.
The act sets the number of board members per municipality against its population, or by agreement between the municipalities in a conservation authority zone.
There is no agreement between Niagara Region, Hamilton and Haldimand about the board composition. Based on population, Hamilton would have six members, Niagara Region five and Haldimand two. However, only 20 per cent of the City of Hamilton falls within the NPCA’s jurisdiction.
“Sandy Annunziata is a peach,” said Kaspersetz. “But if he had not inserted himself into this process, we would not know about (the 1994 order), and Niagara would have 12 members.”
McManus sent a letter to the Region Friday saying the board has to be selected according to the act.
St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik said the act gives the Region the power to replace board members at any time, which council did Thursday. The new board members should be allowed on the board while the future governance of the NPCA is decided, he said.
“If that means a smaller board going forward, so be it. But allow these duly elected representatives to sit on the board and do their job,” he said. “There are kindergarten classes that are better behaved than the last group of NPCA board members. If everyone wears their adult pants, then these issues can be dealt with in a mature fashion and the work of the NPCA can move forward.”