Canadian fire chiefs who will meet in Whitehorse this month say the federal election call resulted in some unfinished business, including a bill that would have given tax breaks to volunteer firefighters.
The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs says Sunday's election call has stalled progress on Bill C-219, which proposes amending the Income Tax Act to allow volunteer emergency workers — such as firefighters, paramedics and search and rescue workers — to deduct $1,000 from their taxable income for 100 hours of service.
The bill also proposes a $2,000 deduction for at least 200 hours of volunteer emergency service.
"With the baby boomers and the age that we're all getting at, there's so many fire chiefs that are leaving," fire Chief Jim Regimbal of Dawson City, Yukon, told CBC News.
"We really have to have incentives there to keep that fire service within the communities."
Association president Patrick Burke told CBC News he will not give up on Bill C-219, adding that his group will use the election to seek support from all political parties for Canadian firefighters.
"We're trying to get some tax breaks to help out the volunteer firefighters across Canada, which is very, very important," Burke said.
The association, which represents fire chiefs across the country, is holding its annual conference in Whitehorse Sept. 21-24.
Recruitment and retention are expected to be topics of discussion at the meeting. Regimbal said the challenge of finding enough firefighters is not going away, even though the role of firefighters has changed over the years.
"It's much more technical now, so the recruitment and retention and succession planning is a lot tougher now if the incentives aren't there to keep the firefighters coming out to fire practice," he said.
Most Yukon communities outside Whitehorse rely on volunteer fire and paramedic departments in emergencies. Regimbal said on average, volunteer firefighters in the territory are getting older.
Regimbal said fire chiefs are in talks with the Yukon government, with the hopes they can secure a stipend for firefighters similar to a stipend given to ambulance drivers.
"We want to make sure that whoever the government of the day is, when it happens in the near future, that they look at this quite seriously," he said.