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10 reasons why the federal government matters to fire

What sits on the border of two provinces and matters to every fire department in Canada? If you guessed Ottawa, you are correct. In the last five years, the importance of federal policy has become more pronounced as each province has faced tragedies of national proportion, such as the wildfires in the West, the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster and Humboldt.

May 18, 2018 
By Tina Saryeddine

“This is why a ‘By Canada, for Canada, Made in Canada’ approach to fire service issues is so important,” said Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC) president and Edmonton Fire Chief, Ken Block. “As leaders in the fire service we have the opportunity to unite, discuss, share and advance our perspectives, evidence, and experience as federal initiatives evolve, to the benefit of all departments. Here are some examples of key issues at the federal level.

  1. Building and fire codes: The National Research Council houses the Commission overseeing the building and fire codes. How do we work within the codes process to effectively mobilize necessary fire safety changes?
  2. Science, technology and the future of fire fighting:  From the department of National Defence to Public Safety Canada, the National Research Council and federal granting councils, the Ottawa plays an important role in directing and funding research. How does the fire service influence decisions and priorities and ensure that funding flows to them?
  3. Critical infrastructure: In the event of an emergency, every sector from food to water, health and transportation may be adversely impacted unless critical infrastructure considerations are put in place. Public Safety Canada is working on a Critical Infrastructure Action plan. How do we ensure policy meets practice?
  4. Interoperability and NG911: In 2015, the Government of Canada allocated a total of 20 MHz of the 700 MHz spectrum for the public safety community. The question is how will this be built out in all communities?  In addition, Next-generation 911 (NG911) — the ability to send out 911 distress calls using means other than traditional telephony —must be implemented by 2020. How will implementation challenges be considered?
  5. Mental health, opioids, cannabis: In Budget 2018, the federal government allocated $30 million to the Canadian Institute of Public Safety Research and Treatment located at the University of Regina. How can we help them maximize impact? In addition, decisions regarding cannabis legislation and the opioid crisis will have a direct impact on departments and first responders. How do we ensure resource needs of municipalities are understood and considered?
  6. Maintaining the volunteer firefighter tax credit: In 2017, there was a review of federal tax measures and we were advised to ensure that we reassert its importance. How do we stay visible?
  7. Memorial Grant Fund: On April 1, the Memorial Grant fund took effect to help families who lose a first responder in the line of duty. In addition to fatal injury, the fund will cover chronic disease and psychological injuries associated with the profession. How do we influence the ongoing dialogue on what’s included?
  8. Transportation of dangerous goods and rail safety: Transport Canada takes an active role these areas. How can we help to inform, scale and spread this knowledge?
  9. Aboriginal and First Nation’s health: The federal government plays a key role in fire departments in First Nation’s communities. How do we use collective knowledge and experience to ensure all of Canada’s communities are safe?
  10. Status of women:  The safety of all communities depends on the capacity to leverage the full richness of Canadian society. how do we leverage incentive programs following the commitment of this government to diversity and inclusion.

How do we do this? You can join us at the CAFC if you are a fire chief or company officer. The next step is to understand the process. Playing politically and on social media is necessary  but it’s also important to understand how the policy making apparatus works. Third is to master the content domain. We have a smart government. They will ask good questions and expect us to have the data. Finally, get involved in national and federal initiatives.  Canada needs you.

Tina Saryeddine, PhD, MHA, CHE, is the executive director of the Canadians Association of Fire Chiefs and an Adjunct Faculty Member at the Telfer school of Management at the University of Ottawa. She brings 20 years of experience with membership driven organizations and extensive experience on the policy, research innovation and advocacy fronts. For more information on how you can join the conversation, email or call 1-800-775-5189.


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