A pathway to collaboration
By Ken Block
From an organizational, strategic perspective, 2016 could well be remembered as a significant year in the history of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs. A working group consisting of the president, executive director and a director of the CAFC as well as the chair and three provincial presidents representing the national advisory council (NAC) of the CAFC gathered in Ottawa with a consultant to review, revise and ultimately draft an updated new vision and mission statement for our CAFC.
By Ken Block
Work was also initiated on developing the framework of a new strategic operational plan intended to assist the board of directors in identifying, prioritizing and executing issues deemed relevant to our new CAFC vision and mission.
The draft document was later further reviewed and tweaked by the entire CAFC board of directors and national advisory council members. The new CAFC vision of “uniting Canada’s fire-service leaders” with the mission of connecting Canada’s provincial, territorial and allied associations and external stakeholders for the advancement of public and firefighter safety was born.
At the working-group level, priority was placed on the importance of the relationship between our board of directors and our national advisory council. A previous restructuring of the CAFC executive and board of directors made necessary by changes to the federal not-for-profit legislation resulted in a much smaller board of directors and saw the creation of the national advisory council. A significant, unintended consequence of the restructure was a perceived loss of continuity between the NAC and the board, and it was identified that this needed to be addressed. The new vision, mission and strategic plan was seen as a major step in the right direction.
Having had the privilege to be elected president at the 2016 conference and AGM in St. John’s, and having had the honour of serving as chair of the NAC for the previous two years, I believe the opportunity exists to collectively work toward a much-improved alignment and integration of both groups.
It was deemed important by the working groups that the CAFC not, in any way, be perceived as being in competition with our provincial, territorial and allied associations, but rather to have a mandate to support them where possible on issues determined to be of national importance to the fire service.
Our new board of directors is unanimous in its resolve to work toward the goal of integration and collaboration with our NAC members.
The priorities of advancing the firefighter mental wellness, Answer the Call, national fire incident database and transportation of dangerous goods initiatives resonate with fire-service leaders across our country. Advocating for the inclusion of firefighter safety as an objective of the National Model Building Code and the creation of a type of secretariat or national fire advisor position to evaluate data with the purpose of researching for trends within the aboriginal, territorial and provincial regions of Canada’s fire service have also been identified as national issues of importance. With our new vision, mission and strategic plan guiding us, there is much work to do and many priorities are being addressed in parallel with the posting and filling of our vacant executive director position, furthering our relationships with federal elected officials, the pipeline industry within Canada, and the International Association of Fire Chiefs. These ongoing files important to our members are all being actively worked on and advanced.
The key to the future sustainability and success of our Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs is 100 per cent dependent upon the alignment, integration, partnership and engagement among our board of directors, the national advisory council, and members of their associations.
The way forward will see our board regularly engage the NAC seeking the provincial, territorial and allied association perspective, feedback and recommendations on national fire-service issues that have been identified and brought forward for consideration; therein lies our greatest opportunity.
As we can all attest, success in the fire service is dependent on teamwork, and it is my belief that the CAFC board of directors and national advisory council working together under the guidance of our new vision, mission and fundamentally sound strategic plan will be a force to be reckoned with as we engage in the important role of advancing fire-service priorities of national interest across Canada.
Only time will tell, however, it is my belief that the opportunity exists for 2016 to indeed be remembered as the beginning of a more strategically focused Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs effectively aligned and integrated with our national advisory council partners, working toward our common goal of advancing fire-service priorities identified to be national in scope from coast to coast to coast.
Ken Block is the fire chief in Edmonton and president of the CAFC. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org