Volunteer fire departments lack funds

Here in the northwest, we know the value of public services and appreciate the work of those deliver them.
We know how lucky we are to have such dedicated people working for the common good of our communities, and especially those charged with keeping us safe.
In smaller communities, many of these important services are provided by volunteers.
These people, who put their lives on the line for the benefit of others, deserve a special status in our society—and government support to make their work safer and more effective.
In our riding, the fire services in many communities either are fully provided or greatly enhanced by volunteers.
Volunteer firefighters serve communities like Atikokan, Rainy River, Upsala, Neebing, Lake of the Woods Township, Shebandowan, Emo, Oliver-Paipoonge, and a dozen more across Thunder Bay-Rainy River.
In Fort Frances, volunteers work alongside professional firefighters to serve there, but all have two things in common—they are all volunteers and they are all life-savers.
These departments not only fight fires, but they also respond to accidents along our highways. In Northern Ontario, volunteers respond to 98 percent of incidents that take place on the Highway 17 and Highway 11 corridors.
These departments deliver an important service but because they serve small communities, with even smaller municipal tax bases, they continually are forced to operate with less funding than they require.
The lack of funding to these volunteer fire departments has meant they must work with older equipment, with 39 percent of their pumper trucks and 42 percent of their tanker trucks being 15 years or older.
Working with that older equipment unnecessarily increases the risk to these volunteers, and I believe our federal government should help fix this problem.
With this information in mind, I brought forward a motion in Parliament to try to help these departments gain access to more funding to upgrade their equipment and reduce the risks they face while providing this essential public service.
On Feb. 8, I tabled Motion M-635, which calls on the federal government to work with our municipal and provincial partners to create new funding streams to help fund our volunteer fire departments.
This motion, like others that I have introduced on pension protection, the HST, and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, came from the concerns raised by constituents.
I want to thank Tim Beebe, chief of the Upsala Fire Department, in particular, for bringing this concern to me and for working with my staff to develop this response.
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In another important bit of riding news, I would like to announce our next town hall meeting—a telephone town hall meeting that hopefully will make it possible for every household in the riding to connect to, and participate in, the same meeting at the same time.
The meeting will take place today (March 16) from 7-8 p.m. (CST).
The new technology we will be using is quite amazing. It will dial up to 300 calls per second to the nearly 40,000 land lines in our riding and offer those who respond to the call an opportunity to jump right into the meeting at that time.
Once in the meeting, participants will be able to get in the queue to ask me a question, and register their opinions in a variety of polls using their dial pads.
They also will have an option, at the end of the call, to leave a personal message or pose a question directly to me so I can provide an answer at a later time.
Since this is our first experiment using this new technology, there may be a few glitches.
But I hope this new technology will enable us to stay better connected and assist my work in Ottawa on your behalf moving forward.

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