Fire Fighting in Canada

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Comment: August 2009

Having recently attended conferences in Toronto (OAFC), Nanaimo (FCABC) and Pictou County, N.S. (MFCA), several themes emerged – among them recruitment and retention and how to get those Gen Y kids to do what they’re told. Generation gaps aside, one subject stood out: the differences in relationships between associations and their provincial governments.

July 27, 2009
By Laura King


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Having recently attended conferences in Toronto (OAFC), Nanaimo (FCABC) and Pictou County, N.S. (MFCA), several themes emerged – among them recruitment and retention and how to get those Gen Y kids to do what they’re told. Generation gaps aside, one subject stood out: the differences in relationships between associations and their provincial governments.

At the Maritime conference, the four provincial associations gave synopses of their activities. Andy Yarrow, first vice president of the Fire Services Association of Nova Scotia, talked about the association’s position paper (www.fsans.ns.ca ) and a recent meeting at which four areas of concern were identified, the first being the need for a Nova Scotia government officer for the fire service.

In Nova Scotia, fire and emergency services do not fall under the portfolio of any provincial minister. FSANS is frustrated that successive governments have declined to respond to overtures of co-operation and potential partnerships.

Contrast that with the presentation by Vince MacKenzie, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Fire Services, who was able to go back to the rock and tell his members how good they have it.

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On July 5, Dianne Whalen, Minster of Municipal Affairs and Minister Responsible for Fire and Emergency Services–Newfoundland and Labrador, announced $152,000 for volunteer departments: a $41,000 annual operating grant; $61,000 for Learn Not to Burn; $20,000 toward the annual convention; and $30,000 for training.

MacKenzie said the association is “committed to strengthening the provincial fire protection and emergency services by retaining our strong working relationship with government.”

See the difference? While Nova Scotia doesn’t have an advocate within the provincial cabinet, Newfoundland and Labrador got $20,000 for its annual convention for goodness sake.

At the Ontario and B.C. conventions provincial ministers were on hand and knew the issues. Not so at the MFCA conference – which, admittedly, differs as it’s a regional group meant to promote networking and idea sharing. It does not lobby provincial governments rather leaves that to the provincial groups.

The point? Provincial and regional associations do good work, sometimes seemingly autonomously. Sharing information and best practices could save everyone time and energy and prevent those already working so hard for the fire service from reinventing the wheel. Regional associations like the MFCA help provincial associations share information. And the CAFC’s board, which now includes most provincial association presidents, is a great vehicle for such discussion. Would a national fire adviser help to focus the issues and build bridges with provincial governments? Hard to say until the proposed office becomes a reality but it’s fodder for the ongoing debate.


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