Money targeted by law for Fire Marshal's Office goes somewhere else
Fire chiefs want to know what government is doing with money intended for fire investigations, prevention
The New Brunswick Association of Fire Chief's wants to know where the money raised under provincial legislation for the Fire Marshal's Office is actually going.
The Fire Marshal's Office, responsible for investigating suspicious fires, monitoring fire trends, helping set policy, fire prevention and protection education, is financed by a levy insurers must pay on every fire protection policy they sell in the province.
But Hartland Chief Mike Walton, the president of New Brunswick association, said the chiefs don't know where that money goes, and the government won't tell them.
"I am disappointed that we work so hard, and then find out that some of the monies provided to our province through an insurance levy is being used for something else than fire protection," Walton said Tuesday.
Legislation is specific
The New Brunswick Fire Prevention Act specifies the money is for the "maintenance of the office of the fire marshal."
But government figures from the last seven years indicate this isn't happening, and the gap appears to be growing each year.
In 2010, the levy raised more than $2.1 million for the Fire Marshal's Office, but only 72 per cent went to the office, which got about $1.5 million.
Walton said that when he asks where the remainder of the money is going, he gets the same response from government officials: "We'll check into that and get back to you."
Lacking what they need
Yet not having the money leaves gaps is fire prevention, fire education, and the Fire Marshal's Office itself, Walton said.
"We're lacking what we need right now to train our fire service in New Brunswick with a mobile fire unit," he said. "And we're being told that our province cannot afford this, does not have the funds for this right now."
He said it would also be important to the whole province to have a mobile burn unit.
"It's disappointing that our government cannot help us a little bit, because we know the money is there. It's given to us by the insurance bureau, and it's there. We just need to find out where it is."
Walton said he is going to keep asking about the money.
Denis Landry, the minister of justice and public safety, said he would like to see the Fire Marshal's Office have a bigger budget, although he didn't know why it wasn't getting the money it's supposed to get already.
"I would like to see improvements in their funding for the important work they do," he said.
But Landry also said all departments are asking for more, and the Fire Marshal's Office is getting its fair share. Whether it gets more isn't up to him but the government as a whole, he said.
With files from Catherine Harrop