April 1, 2011, Toronto - The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs is urging its 1,000 members to talk to federal election candidates about two key fire-service issues: a tax credit for volunteer firefighters and the reservation of a 20-megahertz segment of the 700-MHz radio spectrum for use by emergency responders.
In a letter to CAFC members distributed by e-mail Friday morning, CAFC president Rob Simonds said the association reached an important milestone in its campaign for tax relief for the volunteer fire service with the inclusion of the $3,000 tax credit in the March 22 federal budget.
“While the budget did not pass and the minority Conservative government fell, the current federal election presents an opportunity to advance our priority issues with all parties and candidates,” Simonds says.
“Given that all political parties represented in the last Parliament support tax relief for volunteer firefighters, we must continue our efforts in order to ensure that whatever the composition of the next Parliament, our proposal is reintroduced and passed into law as part of the budget 2011.”
Simonds says that while there are other concerns the CAFC wishes to bring to Ottawa’s attention, it has identified the tax credit and the radio-spectrum issue as its priorities for the 2011 campaign and is calling on all parties and candidates to embrace its proposals.
The CAFC has crafted letter templates that explain the two issues for members to send to their candidates.
“There is no greater responsibility for the government of Canada than protecting the safety of Canadians,” the letter says. “Most public safety issues are initially addressed by emergency first responders at the community level. Almost inevitably, the emergency responders that arrive first at the scene of an incident are the fire services. In most Canadian communities, the only locally based emergency first responder service is the fire department.”
An attached two-page CAFC election platform outlines the tax credit and broadband issues.
“Volunteer firefighters are becoming harder to find and harder to keep,” the addendum says.
“While the government of Canada currently allows volunteer firefighters to earn $1,000 from their fire departments tax free, this is of limited value as the vast majority of fire department don’t provide stipends. The proposed tax credit would create a national standard for Canada’s volunteer firefighters.”
The platform encourages federal election candidates to back the reservation of a 20-MHz segment of the new 700-MHz radio-spectrum to ensure the safety of Canadians and of first responders.
“First responders need the right tools to protect and save lives as well as for their own protection,” the platform says. “Robust, state-of-the-art public safety communications are essential to provide the public with the necessary level of service, protection and security. A 20-MHz designation of the 700-MHz spectrum will ensure that Canadians receive the best co-ordination of public safety services.”
The platform notes that reservation of the 20-MHz segment of the 700-MHz spectrum is supported by other first-responder agencies including the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the Emergency Medical Services Chiefs of Canada.