NDP’s Jeff Burch calls for provincial oversight of conservation authority in wake of Auditor General Report
QUEEN’S PARK – In question period on Wednesday, Niagara Centre NDP MPP Jeff Burch said that Doug Ford is failing to hold the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) accountable after a scathing Auditor General Report revealed that the conservation authority is working against the interests of Niagara families.
“The report detailed that the NPCA is having difficulty fulfilling its legislative mandate,” said Burch. “The NPCA is plagued by financial mismanagement, a high employee grievance rate and issues of conflict of interest. Beyond the audit, we’ve seen the NPCA fire key staff, censure board members, lobby the government to develop on provincially significant wetlands, and sue a private citizen – Ed Smith, a Canadian Forces veteran — for criticizing its practices.
“The Auditor General herself indicated that the province could do more to oversee the NPCA.”
Burch said that the previous Liberal government has failed Niagara families for years and allowed the NPCA to work against its mandate and prioritize development over the environment. New Democrats have long called for more oversight of the NPCA, with former NDP MPP Cindy Forster tabling the motion that eventually led to the recent audit. The NDP has also called for 50 per cent of conservation authority board members to have conservation expertise.
“One of the most troubling findings in the audit is that the NPCA is not responding to local complaints when the Conservation Act is violated,” said Burch. “It’s clear we need a supervisor, a clean sweep of the board, and changes to the Conservation Act to ensure that at least 50 per cent of the board are community members with a working knowledge of conservation.”
“Will the minister hold the NPCA accountable and ensure the citizens of Niagara’s tax dollars are well spent by appointing a supervisor to oversee the implementation of the Auditor General’s recommendations? Is he prepared to make these changes and work with local area MPPs to implement the recommendations of the Auditor General?” asked Burch.