NIAGARA FALLS –The province needs to do more to clean up business practices at the Niagara Parks Commission (NPC) beyond simply managing the Maid of the Mist controversy, including making the troubled arms-length agency a direct operation of government, says the union representing workers at the NPC.
“When the government knows one of the contracts wasn’t done properly, why haven’t they examined all recent financial decisions made by the Commission?” said Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).
The union has cited a record of mismanagement and closed-door dealings at the NPC including:
- the leasing of the marina without going to tender;
- the development of a $40 million attraction, the Fury, that brought in fewer visitors than projected and created no new jobs;
- the layoffs of 250 staff over eight years leading to deteriorating lands and buildings; and
- questionable spending decisions even as layoffs are happening.
“We would have thought with the spending scandals at eHealth and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, the government would have taken decisive action to deal with the questionable spending practices, cronyism, and culture of secrecy at the NPC,” said Thomas.
“We believe the best way to protect the parkland and assets is to have the government directly manage them,” he said.
The union questions the conclusion of a government audit that the agency’s procurement and leasing policies are generally consistent with best practices.
“From what we’ve seen and experienced with this employer, there is no way the Commission follows best practices,” said OPSEU Local 217 president Bill Rudd, representing 600 full-time and seasonal employees of the NPC.