To say that issues swirling around the NPCA are contentious and have been for years would be the understatement of at least the decade. This past Thursday, Regional Council took what I think is an important step toward resolving the issues that arose following the appointment of an interim board.
You see, as I stated at our February meeting (when the Niagara reps on their NPCA board requested their first extension) and then said again on Thursday night, the Regional Councillors we appointed to the NPCA board at our December 6 meeting (which was also our inaugural meeting) were not appointed because we felt they had any special skills or qualifications to sit on that board. They were appointed, because there was an absolute urgency to replace the previous board members and because each of the people we appointed showed an interest.
In February, I tried to make the following motion:
- That Regional Council EXTEND the appointments of Councillors Bylsma, Foster, Gibson, Greenwood, Huson, Steele, Whalen, and Zalepa on the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority Board for the interim period; and
- That Regional Council immediately APPOINT the citizen appointees recommended by Fort Erie, St. Catharines, Welland, and Grimsby.
In a recorded vote, the motion failed with 25 No votes and only 5 Yes votes. Voting ‘yes’ along with me were Councillors Campion, Chiocchio, Jordan, and Villella. Chair Bradley doesn’t vote, and Councillor Sendzik was not present.
Instead, the following motion passed:
- That Regional Council EXTEND the appointments of Councillors Bylsma, Chiocchio, Foster, Gibson, Greenwood, Heit, Huson, Insinna, Jordan, Steele, Whalen and Zalepa, on the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority Board for an additional period of three months; and
- That the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority Board BE REQUESTED to provide recommendations respecting Board composition and the recommended qualifications and process for appointments to the Board to Regional Council for consideration; and
- That the Board of Directors of the NPCA DETERMINE the types of skills and/or experience required on this Board of Directors based on the mandate of the NPCA and subsequently providing a skills matrix for purposes of selecting those members to Regional Council before the end of April 2019; and
- That staff BE DIRECTED to develop a process that all lower tier municipalities can follow to determine who they will recommend as their representatives to the NPCA Board of Directors before the end of May 2019; and
- That staff BE DIRECTED to develop a process that will determine a fair and acceptable mix of politicians to be responsible to Niagara tax payers to serve on the NPCA Board of Directors alongside those chosen via the skills matrix before the end of May 2019.
In a recorded vote, only myself and Councillor Campion voted against it, again with Chair Bradley not voting and Councillor Sendzik not being present.
At our May 16, 2019, meeting, Items 2 and 3 of that motion were fulfilled, so to speak, in that they were punted back to the Region, and Items 4 and 5 are still in progress. There is nothing that happened at the Council meeting on May 16, 2019, that negates any of the above from being fulfilled. The motion of May 16, 2019, stands separate and apart from the February motion, as was determined by the Clerk and ruled on by the Chair.
A memorandum came to us to be received on Thursday that recommended:
That Regional Council EXTEND the appointments of Councillors Bylsma, Chiocchio, Foster, Gibson, Heit, Huson, Insinna, Jordan, Steele, Whalen, and Zalepa on the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority Board until such time as an agreement between the three municipalities [that would be Hamilton, Haldimand, and Niagara] has been reached respecting the composition of the Board.
Had we just received the correspondence, the appointments of Regional Councillors to the board would have been extended indefinitely (“until such time as…”), because we’ve no idea how long it will take to negotiate the composition of the board, particularly when no one thinks that Niagara having 27 members on the board is good idea. (It’s not a good idea, at least in part, because a 33-member board would be completely unwieldy, and we pay everyone who sits on that board.)
In the absence of any other motion and because we had already received four appointees from municipalities who were not selected based on a consistent skills matrix, and we’d already told those appointees that they would not have to reapply, and – furthermore – because the Hamilton and Haldimand reps were not selected based on a skills matrix, I moved the following amendment:
The skills matrix can be developed for the selection of the next board, rather than having a sort of two-tier board where some members have been selected based on the matrix and some have not. As well, the composition of the board may well be a lengthy negotiation. If/when Niagara reaches an agreement with Hamilton and Haldimand about the board composition (rather than just imposing the 27 permitted members and then taxpayers also paying all of them), we can add those members as we go.
The fact of the matter is that this board will be in transition for a while, and – to date – Regional Council has imposed appointments on the board, rather than asking the individual municipalities who they’d select.
The vote on the amendment was recorded and the results are as follows:
To be clear, the interim board had to be extended “for an additional three months from today’s date unless the local area municipality appoints another representative before that date,” because, if it had not, Niagara would be left with only the four Niagara reps who were appointed by their individual municipalities, rather than it’s *current* full complement of 12 members.
We learned on Thursday night that Thorold has already accepted applications and is in the selection process, and we already knew that Councillor Steele has been recommended by Port Colborne.
At the very latest, all of the municipalities will have recommended their appointees by our August Council meeting, and we will no longer have an interim board. Now, that said, it’s entirely possible that some of those municipalities may recommend a Regional Councillor, as is their right to do so.
I hope that helps to clear things up. I’m always willing to take your questions.