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Who’s in charge of the NPCA?

On Friday, December 21, Justice Ramsay ruled in favour of A Better Niagara on an interim basis in its application for an injunction against the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, finding that the 12 board members appointed by the Region on December 6 were in fact the current representatives from Niagara

The group brought the application for an injunction in Superior Court seeking a court order affirming the authority of Niagara Regional Council to replace, on an interim basis, its 12 members appointed to the board of the NPCA. The group was also seeking orders which declared that the NPCA was required to comply with instructions from the new board members, that the NPCA did not have the jurisdiction to impose a limit of only 5 board members from the Region, and that in fact the Region has the authority to appoint up to 27 board members (based on the population of the municipalities within the Region).  This action followed weeks of dysfunction and controversy regarding the NPCA and the actions of its outgoing board members.

The Niagara Region elected to join the group in their action, though counsel for the Region requested an adjournment of the proceedings in order to receive instructions from Council after their January meeting.  The NPCA was represented at the meeting only by interim CAO David Barrick, with Justice Ramsay adding the word ‘allegedly’ after Barrick introduced himself as the CAO.  Barrick claimed that the NPCA had been unable to obtain counsel, however when asked by Justice Ramsay, Barrick did admit that the NPCA had been aware of that day’s application in advance.

When giving his decision, Justice Ramsay stated “The present situation is intolerable. The constitutional order needs to be restored. The governance of the conservation authority cannot remain in chaos.”  Justice Ramsay then declared that the 12 members appointed by Regional Council were the members of the board.  He did adjourn all other requests for relief until the matter is heard again on January 2nd.

Justice Ramsay’s order has some interesting implications.  Due to the complicated and conflicting timeline of recent staffing changes at the board with the replacement of the board members who effected those changes, it is entirely possible that the NPCA board which acted to remove the former CAO Mark Brickell and replace him first with Lisa McManus, and then with David Barrick who had been fired by Brickell on November 23rd, did not have the legal authority to do so.

The municipal law team at Daniel & Partners will continue to watch the results of this application as it develops. We act on behalf of municipalities, landowners, developers, financial institutions, and public interest groups in mediations and arbitrations before a variety of tribunals as well as in the Courts. Contact our office to arrange an initial consultation as soon as possible to get our team started on your case.

Post written by Karen Shedden , associate lawyer.