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Toronto firefighters rally again to protest budget cuts

Toronto firefighters rallied again on Thursday to protest planned budget cuts they claim could cost lives.

Firefighters marched in the city’s east end from Riverdale Plaza to the Riverdale Fire Hall, near Gerrard Street and Carlaw Avenue, where they held a protest at 8:30 a.m.

Firefighters say that planned budget cuts mean the loss of one fire truck at the Riverdale station — one of five that will be eliminated citywide.

“Taking five trucks out of service is reckless,” Toronto Professional Fire Fighters’ Association (TPFFA) president Ed Kennedy said at the protest.

“They haven’t done their due diligence,” repeating a phrase he said during a news conference on Wednesday.

The TPFFA is expected to trim $12 million from its current $369-million budget. The TPFFA has warned the lack of increased spending will affect response times. The Runnymede Road fire hall may have to close and 101 positions will be lost through attrition.

Mayor Rob Ford responded to the job loss concerns during Thursday’s executive committee meeting, saying there would be the same number of firefighters on the streets in 2013 as there were in 2012.

The 101 positions are currently vacant but Kennedy wants to fill them. Without increased funding, that won’t be possible.

“This budget takes the aerial truck out of this station,” local Coun. Paula Fletcher said Thursday.

“I don’t think the city really looked down the street to see the number of eight- and nine-storey buildings that have been built over the past few years. I don’t think we can afford not to have it here,” she said.

Thursday’s protest follows a news conference Wednesday where Kennedy accused the city of not doing “its due diligence.”

“Staff reductions…are irresponsible,” Kennedy said, saying that a lack of staff may have contributed to fire deaths in 2011.

The budget proposal is before the city’s executive committee Thursday and will be voted on by council next week.

Several off-duty firefighters will be at city hall for council’s budget debate and vote.

With files from Shawne McKeown