Fire Fighting in Canada

Fire and emergency recommendations for the federal budget

March 11, 2022 
By Tina Saryeddine

Five years ago, Fort McMurray was the largest fire in history from an insurance perspective. In the past 1,000 days, four events have exceeded it, in both cost and magnitude” said Chief Keven Lefebvre, CAFC board member, citing information from the Insurance Bureau of Canada. To believe that the fire service of the past will meet the human, social and financial needs of the future would be a serious mistake. This was the key message in our recommendation to the federal government in response to the Minister of Finance’s “Let’s Talk Budget 2022” consultation.

In this article, we’ll provide you with some specifics, but you can find the actual submission at, as well as our ‘Ten Tips for MPs’, which covers other issues like the importance of sprinklers in new residential construction. 

  1. Invest $2.8 billion in a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) with $7.5 million dedicated to a Canadian equivalent of the US Fire Administration. We’ve recommended that the federal government consider an entity similar to the US Fire Administration, which provides fire departments with support for training, fire prevention and public education, operations management and safety, data publications and a library, and grants and funding.  This body could also ensure that fire and emergency related issues across departments are interconnected substantively and interface with the fire service nationally. Finally, fire department support for messaging could help to moderate the impact on compliance of jurisdictionally appropriate variation, viewed by the public as discretionary. 
  2. Provide $250 million for a modernized version of the former Joint Emergency Preparedness Program (JEPP). While it’s not uncommon for many departments to start with no budget and simply raise funds for training and equipment, this is not going to work in the face of increased climate emergencies and innovation. We’ve asked the government to reinstate the former Joint Emergency Preparedness Program (JEPP) to enhance national preparedness and response capability for all types of emergencies. Providing funding on a cost-shared basis, it covered municipal emergency plans. 
  3. Provide training, funding, standards, and deployment arrangements so that individuals working in local fire departments can be deployed for wildfire emergencies. The CAFC recently had the privilege to work with fire chiefs in some of the wildfire stricken areas of our country in preparation for a First Ministers Meeting on wildfire. While the full slate of recommendations will be made public shortly, a key recommendation is for the federal government to ensure that standards, training and funding are in place, so that firefighters located in municipal departments can deploy for short periods of time where needed and yet, be active and trained in fire departments for other climate emergencies in other seasons. 
  4. Resolve definition issues in the volunteer firefighter tax credit and raise its amount from $3,000 to $10,000 to retain more volunteer firefighters. We’re asking the federal government to support MP Gord Johns private members Bill to increase the tax credit from $3,000 to $10,000 and to update the definition so that volunteer firefighter don’t face paperwork or audit issues. 
  5. Support the Indigenous Fire Marshall Service and a National Fire Protection Act, encourage bands to implement fire protection bylaws on reserves and resolve barriers to enforcing the National Building Codes on Indigenous Territories. Working closely with the National Indigenous Fire safety Council and the Aboriginal Firefighters Association of Canada, we are asking the federal government to ensure the successful operation of the Indigenous Fire Marshall Service, to encourage and assist band leaders in implementing fire protection bylaws, to resolve issues that preclude the enforcement of the national building code and to support the development of a Fire Protection Act. 
  6. Invest $1.4 million for a ‘train the trainer’ model of awareness training, ensuring that the funds are used to scale existing training. The CAFC has been on the record with a request to building capacity that ensures all firefighters receive mental health awareness training. No one should go out into the field without this basic training. We’ve also asked for a first responder crisis prevention line.  

In closing, the federal government receives thousands of recommendations for the federal budget. What’s important is to be on the record and to keep working at the issues. This is what we do.

Tina Saryeddine, PhD, MHA, CHE, is the executive director of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs and an adjunct faculty at the Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa. 

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