-5.8 C
Elmira
Friday, February 28, 2020
Connecting Our Communities

Province moves on legislation to protect double hatters

TRENDING

News Briefs

Woolwich nixes traffic islands Displeased with the troublesome pedestrian islands installed during the Region of Waterloo’s reconstruction of Church Street...

20-year-old agreement causes a stir

An Elmira environmentalist’s “smoking gun” appears to be shooting blanks. Al Marshall, a long-time critic of cleanup efforts at...

Forks up to farmers on well-timed Agriculture Day

February is not the most obvious time to celebrate agriculture in Canada. But that’s...

SIMS ESTATE DR, KITCHENER, ON Canada

Crime of the Week: February 24, 2020 Case#: 1712 Offence: Break and...

THIS WEEK

Elmira
overcast clouds
-5.8 ° C
-3.3 °
-8.3 °
53 %
7.7kmh
90 %
Fri
-1 °
Sat
-6 °
Sun
4 °
Mon
8 °
Tue
6 °

The province is moving quickly to boost rural fire departments by protecting the ability of full-time firefighters to also serve as volunteers in the smaller communities where they live, the so-called double hatters.

Minister of Labour Laurie Scott last week announced amendments to the Fire Protection and Prevention Act 1997. If passed, full-time firefighters who “wear two hats”  will be protected from any loss of employment or fines associated with the practice.

The announcement was welcomed by Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris, who recently held a roundtable discussion about the issue.

“In my meetings with township mayors and chiefs, they were clear that professional firefighters, or so-called ‘double hatters,’ provide an indispensable resource in expertise and leadership to a volunteer model which would be difficult and expensive to replace,” said Harris in a statement. “A volunteer-based recruitment model is crucial for the viability of rural fire services in our region and across Ontario.”

The decision was announced when Harris met last week with Scott at the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs’ annual general meeting in Niagara Falls.

There are some 19,000 volunteer/paid-on-call frontline responders across Ontario, serving 220 fire services. In the region, some 350 volunteer firefighters serve in the townships of Wellesley, Woolwich, Wilmot and North Dumfries.

There are nearly 50 professional firefighters who volunteer their free time to serve locally, Harris said.

The issue has come up more recently, after a handful of “double hatters” across the province, specifically Caledon and Halton Hills, were faced with charges up to $24,000 for engaging in volunteer activities.

The union for full-time firefighters, looking to grow its ranks, has long opposed the practice, arguing that it puts stress on larger fire departments that might be on the hook for benefits or medical costs of firefighters who get sick while volunteering elsewhere.

Local fire chiefs, however, welcomed the proposed legislation, noting that the expertise of full-time firefighters is a boon to their smaller departments.

“It’s a long time coming,” said Wellesley fire chief Paul Redman. “It’s nice that is was finally acted upon. It’s a pleasant surprise to see how fast that happened. I think it’s a nice olive branch that this government is doing for the fire service.

“I know it’s not something that everybody’s happy with, and I know the unions aren’t overly excited about it, but it shows a good-faith measure from the government so far.”

Woolwich fire chief Dale Martin noted that the goal was to have this change made before the end of the year, although the exact timeline has yet to be determined.

“At the end of the day it’s the community that benefits as well,” said Martin. “It hasn’t been a real big issue for us at this point yet, but this will prevent it from becoming a problem.”

Changes to the legislation may also benefit young people looking for a career as firefighters, as rural departments will be more open to providing them with volunteer experience, Redman suggested.

“Sometimes there are departments that when they know someone is looking to get hired full-time, they might not bring them on because they figure they’re going to have them for a year and then they’re going to lose them,” he explained. “They’re going to spend a lot of money on training these employees, and then as soon as they get hired, they’re going to leave.”

The new legislation would alleviate that worry since small towns depend on the work of volunteer firefighters.

“Now that I know that we’re not necessarily going to lose somebody if they get hired somewhere,” said Redman. It’s tough enough to find firefighters, to begin with. It’s win-win because I can send people off on courses that benefit them to try and get jobs as a full-time firefighter. But because they’re given the training, it also benefits us. And it works with our training regimen, and it helps us two ways.”

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to The Observer's online community. Pseudonyms are not permitted. By submitting a comment, you accept that The Observer has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner The Observer chooses. Please note that The Observer does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our submission guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

LIVING HERE

Para hockey players took different paths to Team Canada

Putting on the sweater and going out onto the ice to represent Canada is both a point of pride and unifying moment for each member of the National Para Hockey Team. From different backgrounds...

In Print. Online. In Pictures. In Depth.

You obviously love community journalism. Thanks for visiting today. If you have a great local story, let us know.

Aiming to lower youth unemployment

The youth unemployment rate continues to be the highest of all age groups in Waterloo Region. Numbers recently released by...

Para hockey players took different paths to Team Canada

Putting on the sweater and going out onto the ice to represent Canada is both a point of pride and unifying moment for...

EDSS students join Canada-wide sock donation event

Their team scored, and so did many who are struggling with homelessness. Students from the Elmira District Secondary School (EDSS) took...

Kings wrap up regular season in first place

Having clinched top spot in the conference, the Elmira Sugar Kings may have taken their foot off of the gas pedal, at least...

Jacks defeat Firebirds in six, advance to second round

The Wellesley Applejacks advanced to the second round of the Provincial Junior Hockey League playoffs by defeating the New Hamburg Firebirds in six games.

New Woolwich bylaw takes aim at items such as basketball nets left on boulevards

Shooting some hoops at the end of the driveway and a bit of ball hockey are all well and good, just remember to...
- Advertisement -