Monday, 14 April 2008

Carleton County

The Ontario Landowners’ Association (OLA) is demanding that the McGuinty Government set up an enquiry to look into the dispersal of $25 million of provincial funding by the GTA Greenbelt Commission.

In a recent article that appeared in Ontario Farmer, journalist Ian Cumming revealed that many of the Greenbelt directors and advisors also represent agencies that have derived huge sums of public money from the multi-million dollar provincial funding of the Greenbelt.

The Executive Director of Environmental Defence, Rick Smith, is a Greenbelt Director and his organization received $600,000 from the $10 million that has already been spent from the tax-payer funded slush-fund. The Executive Director of Ontario Nature, Caroline Schultz, is another Greenbelt Director and her group netted $235,000. Stuart Hilts, a Guelph University professor in charge of the Land and Water Stewardship Programs sits on the Greenbelt advisory board and his academic department walked away with $400,000. The Executive Producer of the Royal Winter Fair, William Duron, is a Greenbelt director and the Fair got $600,000 over three years.

The OLA rejects the claim by Greenbelt Foundation President, Burkhard Mausberg, that the conflict of interest was necessary in order to have “the best possible people.”

“He’s defending the indefensible.” replied OLA director Jamie MacMaster. “There’s an old farm test for sour milk that can be used as an ethics tool: if it looks bad, and it smells bad, don’t swallow it no matter what anyone tells you. What do you think the average Canadian would think about this situation? A group of NGOs lobby long and hard for the creation of a Greenbelt. When it is formed, the directors of these various NGOs also become directors of the Greenbelt and secure millions in provincial funding. Lo and behold, a huge chunk of that money goes to their respective organizations.”

The Greenbelt Commission notes that there are guidelines in place so that none of the funding can be used for salaries, but Garry Otten, an OLA director from Peterborough County scoffs at the suggestion that this makes things okay. “What a crock. A kid could see through that. If you already have, let’s say, $1 million in the kitty from donations, doesn’t the infusion of another half-million - only for expenses - free up a larger portion of your original million for salaries?”

Otten, says that this should be a wake-up call for residents who see the Greenbelt as an environmental saviour. “And this is the agency that wants to expand its influence? Boy, everyone better take a long, hard look at what’s going on here.”

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