30 November, 2016

Press conference in response to NPCA threatened legal actions against Ed Smith

Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me begin with some background on myself.  I am a native of St Catharines and while still a young man I left to serve Canada in the Canadian Armed Forces.  I retired from the military after 25 years of service and came back home.  Since my return home I have occupied myself with community work, as well as continued my longstanding volunteer work in overseas development.

Approximately one year ago I took an interest in some of the proposed programs of our Conservation Authority.  The more attention I paid to the issues the more ill at ease I became with what I was witnessing.

I was compelled to be involved in a deeper fashion, and for the past 9 months I have been working with other citizens in a quest to hold those who have carriage of our tax dollars accountable; and to ensure they are serving the public interest.  I took on the role of seeking information from the NPCA in the form of Freedom of Information requests, board minutes, agenda reviews and other duties.  I attended NPCA Board meetings, I phoned them with questions, I submitted questions by email.  The totality of work culminated in a report titled “A Call for Accountability at the NPCA”.  At the end of October I shared a copy of this report with a few of my elected officials in the hope that it would prove productive in our search for answers.

The report asks questions based on the information we uncovered and also based on information that the NPCA failed to provide despite FOI requests.

In response to my distributing the report I was served notice by legal counsel for the NPCA on November 14th.  This letter of notice included a list of demands they say I must comply with.  The letter concludes by informing me that failure to comply with these demands by December 1 could result in the commencing of litigation against me by the NPCA.  The demands of the NPCA made upon a citizen are paraphrased in part as:

you will deliver a full and unqualified written apology for distributing the report,
you will deliver a written Undertaking confirming that you will not distribute the document to any other persons and that you will not say anything bad about the NPCA in the future, and
you will provide the identity of the author(s) of the document

I wish to respond to this list of demands from the NPCA in the strongest of ways.  My response is “NO”.  In fact, I wish to assert (loudly) the right any Canadian citizen should expect, the right to challenge my “elected taxpayers” (a term quoted from Bruce Timms) and to hold any elected or appointed officials accountable.  A robust democracy demands this level of guarantees for all of its citizens.  I view this letter from the NPCA as a blatant attempt to intimidate and threaten me in order to silence a voice of dissension.  Over the past months,I have been subjected to castigation, ridicule and now I am being threatened by legal action by my own government.

Although I am saddened by this legal threat in its entirety I wish to draw particular attention to the single point that I find most disturbing; the NIAGARA PENINSULA CONSERVATION AUTHORITY is demanding that I turn over to them the identity of the authors. This can be viewed as nothing less than a full frontal assault on our democracy, and our rights as Canadians. That a Conservation Authority would somehow imagine it is within it’s realm of legitimate power to demand anything like this from a citizen is disturbing, to say the least.  It is a certain sign of governance run amok.  The NPCA asserts that it can not be compelled to do anything by our Municipal governments nor by our Provincial government.  If this is true then it appears to me that Canada is providing safe haven for unelected, unaccountable bodies of government who are thereby free to threaten and intimidate citizens. My question is; are there checks and balances for correcting this behaviour?

I stand by the research that went into the making of the report on the NPCA and I am asking for a full response to the as yet unanswered questions in that report.  If the NPCA has nothing to hide then let them come public with the documents we have requested, and let them respond directly to the well documented concerns that have occurred since 2013 and continue to this very day.  

My assertion remains that the NPCA has strayed far from its mandate; it has become an organization encrusted with a sense of impunity and therefore it steadfastly refuses any attempt from citizens for openness, transparency and fairness.

I willfully dedicated 25 years of my professional life fighting for the “ideal” of Canada. Countless others have sacrificed much more than that, and there is nothing that will divert me from doing right by them. 

Those who have nothing to hide, hide nothing. I call on the NPCA to answer the questions raised in the report. Bruce Timms claims the NPCA is a model of transparency and accountability. I challenge them to prove it.

At your service,

Ed Smith
Major (retired)