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Government must get house in order at Niagara Parks Commission

NIAGARA FALLS – It is now up to the provincial government to get to the bottom of the questionable spending practices at the Niagara Parks Commission, said the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).

“It is clear from the Integrity Commissioner’s report today that public interest needs to be re-instilled in the Niagara Parks Commission,” said Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of OPSEU, which represents 600 full-time and seasonal staff at the NPC.

“It is time for the government to clean up the operations of this crown agency so that it’s open, transparent and operating in the best interest of the people of Ontario,” Thomas said.

The union has cited a record of mismanagement and a culture of secrecy at the NPC including non-tendering of the marina, the development of a $40 million attraction that brought in fewer visitors than projected and created no new jobs, the layoffs of 250 staff over eight years leading to the deterioration in quality of lands and buildings, and questionable spending decisions even as layoffs are happening.

The government has committed itself to a thorough review of the NPC’s procurement and lease processes and an audit of recent procurement practices.

“Part of the government’s review must look into the on-going privatization of Niagara Parks assets and layoffs that resulted from these and other questionable decisions,” said Thomas. “We also hope they solicit and take account of our front-line expertise.”

The union has called for the province to take over management of Niagara Parks.

“We stand by that position,” said Bill Rudd, president of OPSEU Local 217, representing unionized employees at NPC. “The commissioners are appointed, not elected, and not for their knowledge of the parks. We need people who have expertise in running a park and care about Niagara Parks.”