June 21st, 2023
NDP calls to increase volunteer firefighter and search and rescue tax credit as wildfire efforts further stress volunteer shortage
OTTAWA – On Wednesday, NDP MP Gord Johns (Courtenay – Alberni), joined by Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC) Board Member Paul Boisonneault, on behalf of CAFC President Ken McMullen, Brian Starkell from Volunteer Firefighters of Canada and Dale Kirsch, President of the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association, called on the Liberals to increase the volunteer firefighter and search and rescue tax credit from $3,000 to $10,000.
The hundreds of fires raging across Canada have put intense strain on volunteer firefighters – who make up more than 70 per cent of Canada’s firefighting efforts.
“Wildfires have been burning through communities all over Canada and destroying land like we’ve never seen before. It’s never been clearer that we need to have the strongest fire force and search and rescue team possible,” said Johns. “But the reality is, that the volunteers we rely on are exhausted. They’re working full-time jobs outside of fighting fires, taking on more paid work to keep up with rising costs, and they just can’t keep volunteering on the side.”
Of Canada’s 126,000 firefights, more than 90,000 are volunteers, many of whom work in rural fire stations. But Canada is facing a volunteer firefighter and search and rescue shortage. Fire chiefs report having difficulty finding and retaining new volunteer firefighters. From last year, there’s been a 10 per cent decrease in the number of volunteer firefighters in Canada.
In 2021, Johns brought forward a bill to help volunteer firefighters and search and rescue teams with growing costs and encourage retention and hiring, by increasing the volunteer firefighter and search and rescue tax credit. Johns re-introduced the bill again last winter.
“If we’ve learned anything over the last few weeks, it’s how important our firefighters are to keeping communities safe. These hard-working people are there when we need them the most. We need to be doing everything possible to support these volunteers. But the Liberals don’t seem to think there’s an issue,” added Johns. “The NDP believes we should be supporting these heroic firefighters by giving them this well-deserved tax break.”