March 23, 2011, Ottawa - Those who know me know that I’m often front and centre of the peanut gallery during most conversations. I would never have guessed that I would be a guest of MP Ted Menzies, Minister of State (Finance), in the House of Commons gallery during the reading of a federal budget. But, there I was, one of a handful chiefs in attendance while the finance minister read a budget that included a $3,000 tax relief for Canada’s volunteer firefighters.
I am very proud to have shared the experience with Saskatoon Fire Chief Brian Bentley, Prince Albert Deputy Fire Chief Dan Heney, and County of Brant Fire Chief Paul Boissonneault. What a great day for the Canadian fire service!
This is great news and many thanks have to go out to all of the parties and MPs who supported the CAFC’s main focus during this year’s government relations week. Well, really, it has been over the last decade. However, all firefighters have to be realistic about what is happening in Ottawa this week and keep working on our elected representatives regardless of outcomes from non-confidence votes that may occur. If the government survives the week, the CAFC is not going to stop being a voice for the Canadian fire service on Parliament Hill. A lot of work has been done with previous executives and will continue under the direction of President Rob Simonds.
What will be required in the future is a stronger presence from the volunteer fire departments across Canada.
Fire chiefs from all of the major cities have stepped up and supported this tax relief for your volunteers. It is now our turn to step up our involvement in the CAFC. Automatic sprinklers will help protect live and properties in our small towns. Changing building codes to reflect changes in engineered flooring affects the safety of volunteer firefighters just as much as our paid counterparts. Funding of infrastructure projects and communications equipment is huge to our volunteer stations that have aging equipment stored inside.
The tax credit should not be the end to volunteer involvement in the CAFC, it should be the beginning.
Rob Evans is the deputy fire chief for Redwood Meadows Emergency Services, 25 kilometres west of Calgary. Evans attended the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in 1989 and studied photojournalism. In 1992 he joined RMES after taking pictures of an interface fire and making prints for the department. He has his NFPA 1001 level II certification, NFPA 472 Operations and Awareness (hazmat), NFPA 1041 level I (fire service instructor), Henson College Fire Service Leadership certificate and is a registered Emergency Medical Responder with the Alberta College of Paramedics. He lives in Redwood Meadows with his wife, a firefighter/EMT with RMES, and three children.