Despite cancelling the Liberals’ plan to certify firefighters, the province says it’s not against training, just the way the previous administration was rolling it out.
But it appears the government has no timeline for coming up with its own regulations.
“In fact, we’re not opposed to certification,” Community Safety Minister Michael Tibollo said at a news conference Thursday.
“What we need to do is we need to study what exactly the needs are in each of the municipalities. We have to consult with the municipalities and provide them with the proper amount of time they need to certify the firefighters. So, that is something that is in progress.”
Last week, the PC government axed mandatory certification, which was due to come into effect in July, 2019. The Liberals brought it in after recommendations from three coroner’s inquests and years of pressure to increase safety standards.
Currently, there is no mandatory certification process for firefighters, fire inspectors or dispatchers.
“Although disappointing news, the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (OAFC) is still moving forward in developing our strategy to achieve mandatory certification, in a method that is achievable, attainable and sustainable for all fire services in Ontario,” President Stephen Hernen wrote in a letter.
After three teens died in a fire in Whitby in 2012, investigators found their rental unit had passed an inspection despite not having a second exit or flame retardant drywall on the stairs. Both are violations of the fire code.
And in 2015, firefighting student Adam Brunt, 30, drowned during a cold-water rescue training exercise
His parents have been fighting for certification for trainers ever since.
“To take the position that we would rather reduce the amount of safety in the short term than stick with safety and fix the concerns that were coming up, is a bit of a disgusting decision,” Allan Brunt told CityNews.
“It just makes no sense because the first responders every day put their lives on the line. That’s what we as the public expect of them. For us not to give them the best of training and support is just a bad decision.”
The government said certification would present a “significant challenge” for rural communities, which rely on volunteer firefighters. It said it’s concerned about the cost, the lack of an adequate plan and the speed of the rollout.
“What price do we put on a person’s life?” Brunt said.
“The other part I look at is if municipalities don’t have the funds in certain areas, well who’s in charge of that, Mr. Ford? Maybe you need to find some money from your buck-a-beer or other initiatives.
“This is important to the public, so maybe you need to figure out where those dollars come from and prioritize it.”
Jeri Ottley of the Fire Fighters Association of Ontario (FFAO), which represents volunteer firefighters, said his organization supports a minimum standard for fire service. Right now, the level of training varies across the province.
“The world is changing considerably, but the tactics are the same between a large city fire and a small town fire,” he said. “The skill set that’s needed to effectively, safely deal with those emergencies is the same.”
Ottley said the FFAO is asking the province for resources to implement certification. It has been meeting with the province, the OAFC and the Ontario firefighters union.