Nov. 4, 2009, Ottawa – The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs has told the Standing Committee on Finance that the federal government has an important financial role to play in ensuring a basic level of protection for citizens against fire and other dangers.
Saint John, N.B., Fire Chief Robert Simonds, first vice-president of
CAFC, informed the committee that 78 per cent of Canada’s 108,000 fire services
personnel are volunteers and pointed out that “in no other Canadian emergency
first responder service do volunteers play a more significant role.”
A survey carried out this summer by CAFC revealed that Canada’s volunteer fire service is under considerable stress. Reasons range from an inability for
these firefighters to find work close to where their volunteer services are
needed, aging local populations, inadequate reimbursement for out-of-pocket
expenses such as gasoline for their own vehicles when needed for emergency calls,
and competing family demands. Personal tax relief for volunteers was viewed by more than 95 per cent of chiefs of volunteer fire departments as the single most
important way to help address problems of faltering recruitment and
Chief Simonds told the standing committee that the $5 million in annual
funding for the Joint Emergency Preparedness Program (JEPP) is inadequate. The
fund is shared among Canada’s 3500 fire departments and a wide range of other
municipal and provincial/territorial services, including police, emergency
medical services and public works.
"CAFC has been asking the government to increase JEPP funding since 2003 and
to designate a portion for fire services, but without success. The chronic
underfunding is worse now in the face of inflation and expanding populations in
need of protection,” said Chief Simonds, adding that the government needs to
allocate at least $20 million in annual JEPP funding for the use of fire departments.