Gord Johns’ firefighter bill is turning up the heat in Ottawa.
Bill C-310 is currently working its way through the House of Commons. If passed, volunteer firefighters and search and rescue personnel will receive an increased tax credit, from $3,000 to $10,000. Many of our neighbouring municipalities rely heavily on volunteer firefighters, and this bill would help to attract and retain volunteers.
Bonfield, Mattawa, and Calvin Township have all signed letters of support for the bill. Recently, BayToday spoke with Calvin’s fire chief, Mariel Labreche about the proposed bill. As volunteers are paid so little –“we don’t even make minimum wage,” the chief noted – any means to allow firefighters to keep more money in their pockets would be well received.
Gord Johns, an NDP MP representing Courtenay-Alberni in British Columbia, put forward the bill. The first reading of that bill took place in December 2022. BayToday contacted Johns to see how things are coming along.
“We’re hoping it’s going to be in the budget,” this year, he said. “We’ve had over 165 communities throughout Canada” send letters of support for the bill, municipalities “from almost every territory and province.”
Those letters, coupled with an electronic petition with over 16,000 signatures, were brought to the House of Commons as well. The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs also supports the bill, Johns added.
“I tabled it at the House yesterday,” Johns said, referring to the January 30th session. “In the coming days,” he added, “literally dozens of petitions” supporting the bill will arrive at the House of Commons. These are the hard-copy petitions that circulated throughout various municipalities.
“Support is just through the roof,” he enthused, “so we’re hoping the government will do the right thing.”
Johns knows the time is right for such a bill as more wildfires are predicted to rage this spring and summer. His own riding was “cut in half” by the fires that scorched BC last summer.
“We’re dealing with climate emergencies,” he said. “We’re seeing forest fires from coast to coast to coast,” with fire seasons beginning earlier and ending later. “We’re losing thousands of volunteer firefighters and search and rescue personnel annually.”
Johns mentioned he asked the parliamentary budget officer to study the bill, and if passed, it would add around $30 million to the annual budget to cover those tax credits. When compared to the “hundreds of millions of dollars” volunteers save municipalities, the expense is nominal, Johns emphasized.
Johns noted that the campaign to pass the bill has been going for over two years, and the end of the road may be a way off yet. However, he remains optimistic the bill will pass.
The bill has touched people across the country within every community, he added, because people care about their volunteer firefighters and rescue workers. “These are our heroes,” he said, “and this is just a small thing that we can do to let these volunteers know how much we love and care about them and appreciate them.”
David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
By David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Feb 02, 2024 at 16:22