Thunder Bay

Shuniah seeks Bill 148 exemption over volunteer firefighter costs

Shuniah council is calling on the province to re-examine its proposed Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act over concerns that the bill would cause volunteer firefighting costs to skyrocket.

New rules would see municipality pay volunteer firefighters 'approximately $47,000 a year,' CAO says

Shuniah council is calling on the province to re-examine its proposed Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act over concerns that the bill would cause volunteer firefighting costs to skyrocket.

Currently, volunteer firefighters with the Municipality of Shuniah are paid varying amounts, based on the level of responsibility an individual firefighter has, and how many hours they contribute as a firefighter each year to calls, training and other related activities, said Paul Greenwood, Shuniah's chief administrative officer.

Greenwood said Shuniah currently pays its volunteer firefighters from $1,500 to $7,000 a year; payments are made quarterly.

On call three hours a day

However, the Act, also known as Bill 148, includes a provision that would see volunteer firefighters placed on call for three hours a day, 365 days a year, regardless of whether or not a fire is taking place.

While they're on call, each volunteer firefighter would be paid about $43 an hour, Greenwood said, which is based on an average wage for firefighters in Ontario.

"If this were to pass, approximately $47,000 would be paid to a volunteer firefighter to be on call," Greenwood said. "Municipalities would have to re-evaluate how volunteer firefighting is modelled and the service provided."

It would also have an impact on property taxes in Shuniah; the resolution tabled at Tuesday's Shuniah council meeting states taxes would rise by 24 per cent.

Resolution passed by council

The resolution called for the province to give Shuniah an exemption from the new on-call rules contained in Bill 148, as well as for the province to conduct a "full economic impact analysis" of the bill.

The resolution was passed; Greenwood said it was to be forwarded on to the province on Wednesday.

Bill 148, meanwhile, passed second reading in the Ontario legislature on Oct. 18. Greenwood said Shuniah isn't the only municipality concerned over the bill.

"The province is getting feedback both for and against this bill," he said.

Shuniah has about 25 volunteer firefighters on its roster, Greenwood said.

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