NPCA Comments on Recent Job Changes within the Organization: Providing Context and Facts Regarding Recent Matters

October 11, 2017 (WELLAND, ON) - In response to several inaccurate union claims and MPP statements, the NPCA is correcting the record to assure the public that the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) continues to accept full responsibility for its mandate and obligations, as prescribed in the Conservation Authorities Act and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Province and all 36 Conservation Authorities. NPCA continues to be the regulator of wetlands and watercourses throughout the Niagara Peninsula Watershed and does not outsource these primary responsibilities to any other body, including municipalities.

Property owners must obtain permission from the NPCA before beginning any development, site alteration, construction or placement of fill within a regulated or hazard area, as is required under legislation and policy. Permits are also required for any wetland interference, or for altering, straightening, diverting or interfering in any way with the existing channel of a creek, stream or river.

The Conservation Authorities Act allows Conservation Authorities to enter into Memorandums of Understanding with area municipalities, though is not required to do so. Recently, much has been written and said about the MOU between local area municipalities, NPCA, and the Niagara Region.

The MOU and related protocols have succeeded as tools, and are relied upon, to manage relationships, reduce duplication, and facilitate continuous improvement processes. The MOU and its protocols are routinely reviewed and updated to ensure alignment and compliance with all relevant Provincial legislation. The protocols within the MOU were last reviewed in 2008. As such, a review has been initiated.

For further clarification, the roles and responsibilities under review are mandated to the Niagara Region. The guiding principle of these discussions between the Niagara Region and NPCA has been that whoever owns the policy is in the best position to regulate and enforce it. No refinements or changes to the MOU or its related protocols in any way lessens obligations with respect to environmental or watershed protection -- relevant provincial legislation applies to all parties.

As has been widely reported, the discussions related to the MOU have been one of four factors that contributed to layoffs at NPCA. The other three factors were budget pressures, a value-for-money program review, and a minor re-structuring.

Contrary to claims that have been made and reported upon, the positions impacted by the MOU discussions are relatively new positions, having been created in the last five years. The Niagara Region’s decision to take back these functions will have a significant impact on the workloads of both organizations. 

To be clear, the expertise resides within individuals, not within organizations. As such, it is the expressed hope of the NPCA that employees impacted by changes to the MOU will be hired by the Niagara Region in the near future. Independent of this consideration, the NPCA will continue to monitor and assess its own needs with the possibility of recalling laid-off workers should the need arise.

Not widely reported upon is the fact that NPCA also eliminated a Director position as part of its restructuring and has recently hired two new union employees. The two communications positions will mitigate further misunderstandings, and support its commitment to transparency. Also, the NPCA will soon be hiring a procurement specialist to further enhance accountability.

The NPCA recently contracted an independent consultant to conduct a value-for-money program review of its restoration program. Additional program reviews will be undertaken in the near future as part of the evaluation of the NPCA’s performance in relation to its 2014-2017 Strategic Plan.

While the recent value-for-money review revealed many good things about the restoration program, it also pointed out a number of deficiencies, including liability exposure, and as such was deemed to have fallen short of NPCA’s high standards of accountability and transparency.

The NPCA Board has directed the CAO to develop a new, more robust restoration program that fully engages stakeholders and volunteers in a manner that is fully transparent, accountable, and respectful of taxpayer dollars.

It is expected that the NPCA Board will be making a major announcement related to this new initiative, by month’s end.