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Working on ways to encourage more volunteer firefighters – From The Hill

It was refreshing to spend the past week at home in the South Okanagan, but also disheartening to see just a glimpse of the April showers we so desperately needed.

In between community events I managed to squeeze in some family time with some much needed garden maintenance and I couldn’t help but worry as I looked across the parched valley and thought of the experts who warned that a long , dry fire season is approaching.

With record low snowpack and persistent drought, the challenges we face this summer will be significant. Dozens of fires have already started in the province. The investments and workforce we need to fight this fire season will undoubtedly break records again.

Back in Ottawa, just before last week’s break, the NDP celebrated a small but important victory to ensure we can recruit and retain the firefighters we need. Of Canada’s 126,000 firefighters, more than 90,000 are volunteers, many of whom work in fire halls nationwide. However, Canada faces a shortage of volunteer firefighters and search and rescue personnel.

Recent summers have shown us how devastating wildfires can be, forcing communities to be evacuated and people fleeing their homes. Volunteer firefighters and search and rescue workers have been on the front lines of this nationwide emergency – and many have had to take time off work to do so. Being a volunteer firefighter is entirely at your own expense, and with rising costs, one can understand how difficult it is to retain this workforce.

In response, my NDP colleague Gord Johns has teamed up with the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC) and the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association to introduce a bill to help volunteer firefighters and search and rescue teams improve the livelihoods of increase volunteer firefighters and search and rescue efforts. tax credit.

Earlier this month, the NDP succeeded in getting the government to confirm an increase in income tax credits for volunteer firefighters and search and rescue personnel, increasing the credit from $3,000 to $6,000 this year.

Firefighters are an integral part of protecting our environment and keeping our communities safe. Our federal government must take action and stop passing on these increasingly important and significant costs to provinces and local governments.

We need to support the thousands of volunteer firefighters across Canada, and we need a national wildfire response force to strengthen local and provincial teams that are overwhelmed, a well-trained force that can be quickly deployed where needed.

Recent Abacus polls show that 74% of Canadians support the creation of a new national wildfire force that could be deployed full-time to fight, prevent and limit the billions of dollars in damage to our communities and local economies. A force that could work with new provincial fire forecasting services to anticipate significant fire behavior in regions and prevent devastation.

Despite record provincial investments, it was clear last summer that Canada’s wildfire response was overwhelmed. Waiting for help from abroad costs valuable time and money. It is also not sustainable for us to deploy the Canadian military every year. If we had trained national armed forces, we could use them preventively instead of reactively as we usually do now.

It would put Canada on par with similar fire-affected countries, such as Australia. It could reduce financial and staffing pressure on regional wildfire services and increase the efficiency with which provinces can quickly respond to new fires.

We need a national approach now. Our planet is warning us that we are in uncharted territory and must act with the urgency and force this catastrophe requires.

I would like to thank all the fire crews on land and in the air for the difficult and courageous work they have undertaken to keep us all safe. Across our cities, our professional firefighters are springing into action, offering their already overworked and understaffed department support for the wildfire season.

It is time for us to recognize and respect this life- and community-saving profession. Let’s truly thank our firefighters by creating the support they need to keep themselves and our communities safe.

Our new climate reality is something we will have to live with for decades and centuries to come. Let’s prepare for it.

Richard Cannings is the NDP MP for South Okanagan-West Kootenay.

This article was written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.