By Tyler J. Moffitt
The Safety Advocate
May 2 is the date to vote in the federal election. I do encourage everyone to exercise his or her right to vote!
Unfortunately, many Canadians will not vote—many of us don’t care!
Recently, some of the political parties and their members, as well as the fire and rescue service, have spoken on the issue of more funding for volunteer/part-time fire and rescue services and the reasons for it.
Don’t forget, there are full-time fire and rescue services in Canada, as well as composite services, which consists of full-time and part-time personnel. But there always has been a shortfall of funding for these types of services.
There is talk about the need for more police in Canada, but you really don’t hear about more fire and rescue personnel being an issue for Canada. Yet it is an issue as municipalities across Canada are having difficulties in recruiting and retaining volunteer/part-time firefighters!
Recently, the Fort Frances Fire and Rescue Service had to hire nine new part-time firefighters, which is basically half of all the part-time firefighters! As well, five out of eight fire and rescue services west of town have to contract out their fire chief position!
The current federal government recently proposed a $3,000 tax credit for volunteer/part-time firefighters. Other parties, like the Liberals, have talked about this already (it was the Liberals that got us fire and rescue people the $1,000 tax credit back in 2005).
The NDP has talked about getting more money for volunteer fire and rescue services, but may have forgotten to include the full-time fire and rescue services in Canada, as well as composite services.
The only volunteer/part-time firefighters who will qualify for this tax credit will be the ones who serve more than 200 hours a year.
According to the Canadian Volunteer Fire Services Association (CVFSA), volunteer firefighters give their communities an average of 443 hours of service—the equivalent of 60 work days—a year!
More than 3,200 Canadian communities are protected by volunteer/part-time fire and rescue services. As well, more than 78 percent of Canada’s 108,000 plus firefighters are volunteer/part-time.
If my past annual fire and rescue training and response hours have any bearing, I will come very close to qualifying for this credit. However, there will be many volunteer/part-time fire and rescue service members across Canada that will not benefit from the tax credit.
As well, there will be many members who will.
Keep in mind the term volunteer is used very loosely. You really cease to become a volunteer firefighter when you receive any financial compensation—even tax breaks in any form such as an hourly wage or year-end honorarium.
I’m working towards 25 years as being a member of the fire and rescue service. In that time, I served on a real volunteer fire and rescue service for eight years.
I received no financial compensation whatsoever as I ended up shelling out money to be a member back then.
The wear and tear on my clothes, and vehicle, came out of my own pocket. The cost of travel to fire and rescue calls, as well as training out of town, all came out of my own pocket.
No honorarium of any kind existed.
Tyler J. Moffitt is a part-time firefighter and emergency responder, as well as a continuous improvement advocate.