Hamilton councillor and new NPCA chair says it's time to move on from the scandals

Brenda Johnson takes over from Dave Bylsma, who says he doubts the role CO2 has in climate change.

Brenda Johnson takes over from Dave Bylsma, who says he doubts the role CO2 has in climate change

Brenda Johnson is a councillor for Hamilton's Ward 11 (Glanbrook). (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

A Hamilton city councillor is the new chair of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA), taking over from a West Lincoln member recently in hot water over his view on climate change.

The board elected Brenda Johnson (Ward 11, Glanbrook) at its inaugural meeting Wednesday. Johnson takes the helm of an authority still righting itself after years of scandals, disagreements and what Ontario's auditor general called "significant operational issues."

Johnson says it's time to move past all that.

"I really believe the NPCA can move forward, and has been moving forward," she said. "I just think it needs an extra push to stop looking at the past. Let's worry about today. Let's worry about tomorrow. Move forward."

Chandra Sharma is the new CAO of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority. (NPCA)

Johnson takes over from Dave Bylsma, a Niagara regional councillor and mayor of West Lincoln. Bylsma is also national president of the Christian Heritage Party. The party rejects that climate change is man made, and its site says the planet is about to enter a period of global cooling.

Bylsma told the St. Catharines Standard that he believes climate change is real, but it's not the result of releases of CO2, but of natural cycles in the sun, volcanic activity and the cutting down of trees.

A parent group called For Our Kids Niagara wrote the NPCA with concerns.

"Any board member who does not believe in the science of climate change is not going to treat this issue with the urgency it deserves," Diane Archer said in a letter. 

Johnson, who used to work at Environment Hamilton, said she respects climate science. She also knows chairing the NPCA will be a tough job, but she's ready. 

The recent relationship between the NPCA and the City of Hamilton hasn't been great.

Two years ago the city asked the province for permission to leave the authority altogether. The NPCA and the city battled over a drastically increased levy, questions around an agreement no one could find, and governance of the authority overall.

Since then, Hamilton has dropped its court challenge over the levy, and the authority has doubled the number of Hamilton's board seats to four. 

Johnson and Coun. Brad Clark sit on the board, as do long-time member Stewart Beattie and Brian Wright, a former 12-year NPCA employee.

Bruce MacKenzie of Grimsby is the new vice-chair. MacKenzie is a former Hamilton Conservation Authority employee and a director on the Hamilton Naturalists Club.

A new CAO, Chandra Sharma, started on Jan. 1.


Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She often tweets about Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca


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