Sunday, October 30, 2005

BILL 123 TO INCLUDE PARKS COMMISSION

PARKS COMMISSION SHOULD BE INCLUDED IN NEW TRANSPARENCY BILL: CRAITOR

Accountability a must, says MPP

BY DOUG DRAPER THIS WEEK

NIAGARA — Niagara Falls Liberal MPP Kim Craitor is vowing to do what he can to amend a private members bill going through the provin­cial legislature now that that promises to make public bod­ies more open to public scru­tiny.

Craitor told Niagara this Week he hopes to amend the bill to include such bodies as the Niagara Parks Commission and Community Care Access Centre Niagara.

Craitor co-sponsored the bill, spearheaded by Sarnia Liberal MPP Caroline DiCocco, in the wake of concerns expressed by many of his local constituents last year that the Niagara Parks Commission, a provincial body entrusted with protecting large tracts of lands along the Ontario side of the Niagara River corridor, does not open its board meetings to the public.

Those concerns reached a crescendo a year ago last spring and summer when the commission announced plans to build a $23-million gondola ride, in which 40 cars suspended on cables would propel tourists from the brink of the Horseshoe Falls at Table Rock into the Niagara River gorge. The plans were eventually dropped due to public opposi­tion, but many area residents expressed concern that the parks commission is routinely allowed to hold board meetings that involve making decisions about pub­lic lands around the river and falls behind closed doors.

Craitor acknowledged in an interview earlier thismonththatBilll23, also known as a 'transparency in public matters bill,' does nothing, as it is now written, to open the doors to board meetings held by the parks commission or by CCAC Niagara — another provincial body that can make critical decisions about the deployment of home nursing services to the sick and elderly without sharing any details with the public.


Unless bodies such as the parks com­
mission, CCAC Niagara and hydro boards are covered by a bill that aims for more public accountability, then the bill is a "sham," charged Nancy Eidt, a Niagara Falls resident and member of Fair Share, anad hoc citizens group fighting for more transparency .The bill "may be more detrimental than helpful," said Eidt, if it specifically excludes some public bodies from being more open, because those bodies will now be able to use the bill as another reason for closing their doors.


At a provincial hearing on the bill in Toronto last month, Niagara Falls resi­dent Bernadette Secco charged that the transparency bill has a "misleading title" because "it will not be all inclusive" in terms of what public bodies have to open their doors to scrutiny.

Secco went on to add that "the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation is a major player in Niagara Falls and has an operating budget of $5.7 billion." Yet it "will not make public the details of an OLGC contract with the casino manage­ment company even though promised developments have not, and apparently, will not be delivered to the detriment of the city and province..."

Craitor said he hopes to introduce amendments to the bill that will include the parks commission, CCAC Niagara and its 41 affiliates across the province, and other public bodies before the end of this year.


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