Comment: February 2017

Laura King
February 07, 2017
Written by
We write a lot, in these pages, about leadership. This month, Bill Boyes returns, offering a new perspective – as the fire chief in Barrie, Ont., – in the Leadership Forum column he shares with acting Toronto Chief Matt Pegg.


Boyes’ meteoric rise – to deputy from captain and then, in just 13 months, to chief – is no surprise to those who know him. Boyes is working on a PhD, has a degree in public administration and of course, has fire in his blood as a son of former Oakville chief Richard Boyes.

Turnover has been fast and furious in Ontario. Dozens of boomer chiefs who reached 30-year milestones (and therefore their pension eligibility) retired in the last year or so, creating opportunities for chiefs from smaller departments to move into bigger municipalities. In some cases, chiefs with small- or medium-sized departments are moving latterly, or even back to deputy positions, but in larger departments.

It’s clear, as both Boyes and Pegg have written, that municipalities are considering levels of education, and that those who have degrees and experience are in demand.

Shane Caskanette, for example, was appointed chief in Oshawa in September, after having been deputy in Richmond Hill. Three months later, in December, Caskanette was named chief in Brantford, after Chief Jeff McCormick retired.

Tongues wagged, briefly, about Caskanette’s quick move – the location better suited his family – but he has an impressive pedigree: he is working on a master’s of labour relations and employment-law degree; he has master’s degrees in municipal leadership and fire safety studies/public-safety administration; and he has a diploma in public administration.

Tony Bavota, the chief in Burlington, this month moves to Toronto as a deputy. Bavota’s credentials? A master’s in public administration, a degree in economics, and certificates in leadership and labour relations.

In January, the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs labour-relations seminar drew participants from across the country – there were almost 300 delegates, many of them new chiefs and deputies. The pre-conference sessions – labour-relations 101 and a mock arbitration seminar – were full.

As Boyes writes on page 70, there’s debate in the fire service about internal versus external candidates for chief-officer positions; each as its pros and cons. Regardless, its clear that education is a critical requirement.

Of the jobs posted on the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs website in mid-January, many required a four-year university degree in public administration, business administration, or engineering.

As Pegg wrote in the November issue, becoming a chief officer has nothing to do with luck; it requires planning, education, determination and hard work. Both Pegg and Boyes offer solid advice; what you do with it is up to you.


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