Calling On NPCA’s Board To Drop Its Lawsuit Against A Former Employee — Niagara At Large

@NPCA_Ontario #Niagara #NiagaraPeninsula #ISupportJocelynBaker #DropTheSuit

‘The taxpayers of Niagara do not fund the NPCA with their tax dollars so that it can pursue lawsuits, under any circumstance, against private citizens. We expect the NPCA to spend our money on conservation efforts.’ A Message from Friends of Jocelyn Baker, a Niagara, Ontario-based citizen group organized in support of former NPCA employee […]

via Calling On NPCA’s Board To Drop Its Lawsuit Against A Former Employee — Niagara At Large

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Niagara the Victim in Press Freedom fiasco, says Quirk

Our friend, and Grimsby representative at Niagara Region and Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, Tony Quirk flat out denies the December #PressFreedom incident happened and states #Niagara is…. a victim.

That’s right folks, Tony Quirk believes it acceptable to use the terminology sexual assault survivors use to describe their experiences in relation to the Region confiscating a venerated member of the press’ notes and laptop before ejecting him from a public building.

If anyone has a right to feel victimized, it is St Catharines The Standard’s Bill Sawchuk and the shocked citizens who were helplessly watching.

No amount of spinning will doctor this record, Tony.

 

The latest from The Standard: https://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/news-story/8312515-region-victim-in-press-incident-says-quirk/

Or catch up on previous FEWniagara coverage: Cap Caper (the #PressFreedom Fiasco)

The Crux of Reles’ Uncouthness

Also Known As Why the NPCA’s Michael Reles pisses me off.

Reles

Why is Michael Reles’ comment so flippant?

Michael Reles is the Communications Manager/Freedom of Information and Privacy coordinator at the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (@NPCA_Ontario); it is literally Reles’ job to release documents requested of the publicly funded NPCA

(or The Authority as they’ve become known in the dystopia that is #Niagara politics).

The Authority’s board of directors comprises of 15 members, 12 of whom represent the Region of Niagara; most of the Niagara representatives at the NPCA are also lower-tier municipality Mayors and/or Regional Councillors.

The FOI process

NPCA 1 001
I requested full expenses including mileage in OCTOBER 2017…

Over a month later, I received a reply from Michael Reles (to the left).

I was called frivolous and vexatious.
For making a request. Through the Freedom of Information process.
For board and member expenses. Of a publicly funded agency.

So, I appealed.

I then requested a two week limit to mediation in favour NPCA 1 003of arbitration.

Mid-JANUARY, 2018, the Mediator informs me Michael Reles has reversed his position; not only am I no longer frivous and vexatious, Mr Reles, and the Authority, now state they would release the records, online, within 90 days.

NPCA 1 002

 

 

and I am not alone.

Local resident, and retired RCAF Major Ed Smith recently spoke with The Standard about his FOI dispute with the NPCA: https://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/news-story/8291010-smith-npca-in-dispute-over-documents/

The Crux of Reles’ Uncouthness

What about it pissed me off so much?

In his Twitter post, Michael Reles states the media has never mentioned NPCA board mileage before now.

We’ve established Michael is withholding the required records to comment (remember, this guy is the NPCA Communications Manager), but, before he stopped complying with FOI requests, he released Authority Chairman Sandy Annunziata, and former Chairman Bruce Timms, 2017 Q1 & Q2 Expenses (below).

 

The hi-lited lines represent dates where MORE THAN ONE (two or more) PER DIEM were charged in a single day by a single board member.

Unless Latin has made a secret comeback, and changed without my knowledge, per diem translates to per day. Per day, by the day, for the day, daily. Not loosely translates as, or kinda means, but quite literally, and simply, translates to per day.

Not only has the public and media questioned this double diem-ing, Port Colborne council grilled CAO Mark Brickell and Chairman Sandy Annunziata about it in December 2017 https://www.niagarathisweek.com/news-story/8004769-port-colborne-seeks-provincial-supervisor-for-npca/

Stop the political skullduggery and misinformation at the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA); one could make the argument it is you who is vexatious, Mister Reles.

#Niagara Theatre of the Absurd: The Pelham Witchhunt

Tit for TatTonight, Niagara Regional Councillors Tony Quirk and David Barrick will continue their attack on the Town of Pelham and lower-tier autonomy. That’s right people, this is an attack on our local political structure and can not be allowed to pass.
While Councillors Quirk and Barrick try to distract council, and the public, with skullduggery, we have a Niagara Regional Police Service board, on which Niagara Regional Chair Alan Caslin, and Councillors Barrick and Bob Gale sit, is running $7.2 million dollar deficit and just paid nearly $1 million to well-respected former Police Chief McGuire to force him to retire.
The board of NRPS is asking the Niagara Region to cover at least $2 million of the police services boards deficit in addition to the previously approved 2018 budget.
 Councillor Quirk sits on the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority board, where Councillor Barrick is Director, and who spent over a quarter of a million to sue Ed Smith and untold millions on other legal fees and severance packages (claiming poverty as the need to let longterm employees go), has a newly created Board Lounge at HQ, where they never go. This new NPCA board *lounge* includes new leather furniture and decorations.
Niagara Region – leave #Pelham alone and clean up your own boards finances.
#Niagara

Politics and Zipper Demons: Why Women Are Reluctant to Speak Out

The #OntarioPCParty is currently grappling with the very real issue of sexual misconduct in the workplace, particularly in the public sector. As outsiders try to catch up, insiders are wondering why it’s taken so long for sexual misconduct allegations to catch up with both Patrick Brown and Rick Dykstra. Honestly, the first thought I had when Patrick Brown announced his resignation was how long will it take Dykstra to follow suit; the rumours around these two men were not whispers, their alleged behaviours were well known, and ignored.

Why did no one speak out sooner?

With the #MeToo and #WomensMarch movements, women’s empowerment is at a public level unseen since the bra burnings of the 1960’s. Women are speaking out about sexism, sexual harassment, and gender based violence, as institutionalized attitudes; we are taking our seat at the table and tackling the culture that continues to persevere around gender in politics and industry.

Social media has enabled women to see how truly ubiquitous unwanted sexual attention is, and how normalized the behaviour is, while at the same time gaining strength from the stories we share; we have found our voice and we are breaking our silence.

Finding your voice as part of a movement is very different from making the decision to come forward with your sexual assault. Calling it sexual misconduct if the offender is a public servant, elected official, or other such authority figure, is facetious at best.

Any time a person is subjected to a depravation of their life, liberty, or security of person, by an authority figure it is an abuse of power.

That’s correct:
unwanted sexual attention
is a form of assault,
when it involves
someone of influence,
it is an abuse of power.

Women, who have worked hard for equality, particularly in the workplace, are reluctant to be seen as weak, damaged, disadvantaged, because of their sex. Rape is about power, not sex; many women see public knowledge as a further theft of their dignity; many women find disclosure and the trial empowering.The usual narrative of entitlement and privilege goes beyond the abusers, it applies equally to those who model antiquated practices and enable the wanton disrespect. The sexualization of women continues to be commonplace in public service, which many forget is a workplace, and comes in many forms – verbal, emotional, and physical harassment. Women who speak out are at risk of being passed over for promotion, losing their job, and face being blacklisted in their industry – just for speaking up about harassment.

Knowing the potential harm, women are reluctant to come forward particularly when a public figure, or one of authority, faces allegations of abuse of power or misconduct. The story will become fodder for the media; it is in the public interest to know. Women are forced to deal with a trauma that is being played out in the press; life decisions like whether to file charges, and who you feel comfortable sharing your experience with, should always be a private and personal decision.

A woman’s name may not be published
but she will be dissected,
motives questioned,
while the accused is
innocent until proven guilty.

I can tell you from personal experience no woman goes public with her rape, sexual assault, or harassment, for attention. The police and medical investigations are extensive, invasive, and traumatic; it is akin to being re-assaulted. Anyone who has undergone this daunting process understands why some would choose to end the investigation, try to pick up the pieces, attempt to move on; not wanting to testify doesn’t negate anyone’s experience.

Even with shield laws, criminal proceedings are Kafkaesque. No matter what we say, as a society is acceptable, the victim is always the one on trial. We live in a society so cynical, the survivor is the one who must defend themselves. We must, at minimum, afford accusers the same rights as defendants and treat victims as truthful; we are all innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

While the judiciary must always proceed independently, politics is, by definition, the court of public opinion. It is in the public interest to know about potential political misconduct, whether in a sexual nature or not.

There is an engrained fascination with the lives of those who we have trusted with our vote to be our voice, as it should; those who choose to put themselves forward for public service do so knowing there is an expectation that they be irreproachable. There is a belief that elected leaders should be role models; forgetting public servants are human and fallible, we are shocked when this illusion of perfection (folie-en-masse?) is shattered.

People can’t wrap their heads around it; the person who won our confidence has broken that trust. We desire all the salacious details in cases of misconduct by public officials, regardless of the cost to the victim, adding a further dimension of harassment, and in some cases assault, towards the victim. The confronter can be accused of hidden agenda’s and political motivations on top of the usual fallacies victims face, creating a climate wherein victims are forced to justify themselves to satisfy the public.

While there perseveres an idea
that boys will be boys
so too does the slut shaming
and victim blaming.

And as long as those in power model disrespect, and a laissez-faire attitude towards institutionalized inequalities, there will continue to exist a climate of discrimination.

Women, who have worked hard for equality, particularly in the workplace, are reluctant to be seen as weak, damaged, disadvantaged, because of their sex. Rape is about power, not sex; many women see public knowledge as a further theft of their dignity; many women find disclosure and the trial empowering.

The decision about how a woman survives sexual assault is her own and the first step to her recovery.

Why is the onus for change on victims
and not those who can’t wrestle their inner zipper demons?

Taking A Seat At The Table

As featured in the February edition of The Sound STC: @TheSoundSTC or Facebook

IMG_6674
“Remember who put you in office:
it wasn’t you, it was the people.”
– Debbie Zimmerman,
Niagara Regional Chair (1997-2003)

We live in a time and place where racism and misogyny are rampant and unchecked. Just ask Mohamad AlJumaily, who was accosted by another resident at Regional Council in December and accused of being a terrorist – simply for being a man of colour. What kind of values do we project to the rest of Canada, and the world, when we have a regional council who stands by while our Charter Rights are trampled on? From Andy Petrowski’s antics to the Press Freedom Fiasco, Niagara politics have become a national joke.

I recently attended a workshop at the St Catharines library entitled How You Can Build A Better Niagara: Running for Municipal Office. The event was put on by A Better Niagara, a local non-partisan grassroots organization dedicated to bringing Accountability, Integrity, and Transparency, to politics throughout Niagara. I was tasked with reporting on this event for you, the good readers of the Sound, but as I wrote I realized I took more away from this workshop than political campaign knowhow: I left excited and truly believing we may be at the cusp of a great change in Niagara.

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When asked what advice she’d have for candidates, former Niagara Regional Councillor Eleanor Lancaster was quick to state,

“If you are not at the table,
you are probably on the menu.”

That idea has stuck in my head; for far too long Niagara politics have not adequately reflected the community which it serves. Current Niagara Regional council features four women (one in eight councillors); of the six regional councillors who represent St Catharines, Debbie MacGregor is the only woman. At city council, St Catharines is represented by twelve councillors, two of who are women. Meanwhile, not a single person of colour represents the people. Not one. Anywhere.

How do we propose to attract, and retain, businesses and workers if they do not see themselves represented at the table?

There is hope; two thirds of the Running for Municipal Office event attendees were women and one out of every five attendees were people of colour. Local activist, and workshop attendee, Haley Bateman had this to say: The number of people ranging in ages and stages of their career was remarkable. It is inspiring to see so many people invested in making a better Niagara.

It is heartening to stand in solidarity with so many varied and diverse people as we try to shine a light on the darkness within our community. To witness the past, present, and the hopeful future, of Niagara politics working together regardless of sex, sexual orientation, race, religion, socioeconomic background, or even party politics, left me in awe. I awoke optimistic that a better Niagara is not only possible, it is feasible. Women and people of colour are no longer the minority; we are empowering ourselves, and each other, to get off the menu and take our seats at the table.

The Running For Municipal Office series will continue in the months ahead- if you would like more information please reach out to A Better Niagara on your favourite social media platform or abetterniagara.com. While I am a member of A Better Niagara’s Communications Committee, the opinions featured herein are my own.

The Regional Chair, The NPCA, and the Lobbyist

What was the deal with the Integrity Commissioner’s Report, at Thursday’s Niagara Region Council meeting, that had Chair Alan Caslin recuse himself?

Why did NPCA Chair Sandy Annunziata and NPCA Director David Barrick also recuse themselves?

Why did the Niagara Regional Chair and the Director of the NPCA drive to Toronto to meet with a lobbyist?

Questions about the dismissal of the complaint by the Integrity Commissioner, and how quickly and quietly it was swept away, only add to the confusion of citizens.

When asked why he and NPCA Director David Barrick drove to Toronto a few months ago to meet with former NPCA lobbyist Mark Kealey, of Kealey & Associates, Chair Caslin stated he doesn’t remember the purpose of the meeting nor the conversation but believes it may have had something to do with Kealey seeking employment opportunities with the Region.

If I want work somewhere, the CAO of the Corporation does not drive an hour and a half, each way, to wine and dine me… at Corporate expense (ie taxpayers).

Three hours roundtrip, on a good day, plus the time to “lunch”? At minimum half your day, if not your whole day, shot. Then again, I would remember why I wasted an entire workday on the QEW to get to – wouldn’t you?

STAY TUNED – MORE AS THIS STORY CONTINUES TO DEVELOP… and ask yourself how much this mystery meeting cost taxpayers.

Carmen

#OnlyInNiagara #Niagara #ABetterNiagara #ONelection2018