Forster Tables Legislation Resorting Transparency and Accountability to Conservation Authority Boards

QUEEN’S PARK Today, Welland NDP MPP Cindy Forster tabled legislation that would ensure greater transparency and accountability within conservation authority boards across the province.

The bill would require that at least half the membership of conservation authority boards includes individuals with significant training, experience or employment history in an environmental or natural resource field. Stronger representation by people with the training and experience needed to protect the environment will ensure that conservation authorities fulfill their conservation mandate.

“My community has spent years calling for greater openness, transperency and accountability within the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) and it’s an honour to bring those voices to Queen’s Park via legislation,” said Forster. “Over the last year, I’ve worked with advocates, community members, environmentalists and countless others who have raised their concerns about the NPCA. It very quickly became apparent that we weren’t alone. Communities across the province faced similar issues with their own conservation authority boards and, if passed, this bill will go a long way to ensuring that trust and accountability are restored to conservation authority boards across the province.”

Earlier this year, Forster wrote a letter to the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry echoing concerns raised by local community groups about a Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) proposal that sought to give approval to a large development project seeking to build on significantly protected wetlands – a process called biodiversity offsetting – which goes against the very mandate of what a conservation authority is tasked with.

“What we’re seeing across the province are conservation authority boards that aren’t putting the protection of the environment first. I recognize that development is an important and very necessary part of any region’s growth, but in pursuit of those projects, it’s critical for us as legislators to ensure that we strike the appropriate balance of economic growth that ensures the protection of our fragile ecosystems,” said Forster.

The bill comes on the heels of recent developments in the region that have community groups raising legitimate questions about the NPCA’s management and operations. Late Monday evening, St. Catharine’s city council unanimously passed a motion urging the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry to conduct a forensic financial audit of the NPCA. It’s expected that other municipalities will follow suit over the next few weeks.

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