Money targeted by law for Fire Marshal's Office goes somewhere else

Under the New Brunswick Fire Prevention Act, a one per cent levy is collected from money raised for the Fire Marshal's Office, but the one fire chief said he doesn't know where that money is going.

Fire chiefs want to know what government is doing with money intended for fire investigations, prevention

Hartland fire Chief Mike Walton says some of the money raised by a provincial levy for the Fire Marshal's Office doesn't make it there. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

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.

Under the New Brunswick Fire Prevention Act, for the ‘maintenance of the office of the fire marshal’, a levy is collected from insurers on fire insurance policies. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

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.

This year, $3 million was raised by the levy. but only 53 per cent of that went to the office, and Walton says New Brunswick fire chiefs keep getting the run-around from government. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

"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.

Government response

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.

Minister of Justice and Public Safety Denis Landry says he didn't know where the money went but he'd like to see the fire marshal have a bigger budget. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

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