The two years since the 51st Convention have been extremely busy for our IAFF Canadian Office, which has helped countless Canadian affiliates fight back against attacks, counted several important legislative victories, engaged in social media and continued to meet the needs of Canadian provincial and local affiliates on a daily basis.
The IAFF Canadian Office and its staff have conducted two Canadian Legislative Conferences, a Biennial Canadian Policy Conference, two Canadian Political Training Academies and secured two funding extensions from the Canadian Government for the Canadian Haz-Mat & CBRNE Training Initiative.
Working closely with IAFF Headquarters and in conjunction with the Canadian District Vice Presidents and six Provincial Presidents, the IAFF Canadian Office has responded to hundreds of affiliate requests for assistance, ranging from custom research, media relations, governmental relations and crisis management services to requests for strategic advice, assistance and information on labour relations, health and safety and other issues.
As we head into the 2014 Convention, the IAFF’s Canadian Membership (active and active-retired) stands at 23,083, an increase of 416 members while the number of affiliated Canadian locals has grown from 179 to 183.
The Canadian Office also administers the FIREPAC Canada fund, which is used at the federal level to educate politicians and IAFF members about issues of importance to Canada’s professional fire fighters, and at the provincial and local levels on an approval basis for campaign contributions to fire fighter-friendly election candidates and other political action initiatives.
The IAFF Canadian Office also began the development of comprehensive initiatives on strategic messaging and Emergency Medical Services (EMS), and has begun an important relationship with the Broadbent Institute, which is working to instill messages about progressive values and the importance of a strong middle class in advance of Canada’s next federal election, which is scheduled for October 2015.
The past two years have witnessed an exceptional amount of activity surrounding our Canadian legislative program, including several key advances that came despite a majority Conservative Government that has largely sought to attack unions.
Our success is owed to the strong foundation we have laid over the past 21 years, our non-partisan approach to political action and the fact the we lobby Canada’s MPs and Senators as fire fighters who perennially top public opinion polls by Ispsos-Reid, Reader’s Digest and other firms that ask Canadians which professions they trust the most.
In late 2012, the IAFF’s federal lobby consisted of calling for the Canadian Government to establish a national Public Safety Officer Compensation (PSOC) benefit in the amount of $300,000, to give fire fighters priority access to vaccines and antivirals in the event of an influenza pandemic and to amend the National Building Code of Canada to include fire fighter safety as a core objective.
An important advance occurred on November 21, 2012, when Private Member’s Motion M-388, which called on the government of Canada to act on these three issues, was adopted in the House of Commons.
M-388 was introduced in the House of Commons by Saskatchewan Liberal MP Ralph Goodale shortly after speaking at the IAFF’s 19th Canadian Legislative Conference and meeting with members from Regina, SK Local 181.
While private member’s motions are non-binding, the fact that a majority of MPs representing a majority of Canadians voted in favour of M-388 sent the federal government a clear message that it should act on the IAFF’s Canadian legislative issues, and became the backdrop for the subsequent 20th and 21st Canadian Legislative Conferences.
In the days leading up to the vote on M-388, numerous Canadian affiliates responded to the IAFF’s request to contact target MPs and to urge them to vote in favour of the motion. Those efforts played a key role in the adoption of M-388.
The IAFF is extremely grateful to Goodale for his decisive action on behalf of Canada’s professional fire fighters and his hard work in getting M-388 adopted in the House of Commons. Goodale received an IAFF Award of recognition at the 20th Canadian Legislative Conference.
All Liberal and New Democratic Party (NDP) MPs voted in favour of M-388, as did close to 20 Conservatives. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May also supported the motion, as did all four Bloc Quebecois MPs.
The IAFF is also grateful to Conservative MP and IAFF ally Patrick Brown (Barrie, ON), who worked exceptionally hard on behalf of fire fighters to help secure enough votes to see M-388 adopted, and to NDP MP Peter Julian (Burnaby-New Westminster, BC), who also brought important attention to the motion.
Text of M-388:
M-388 — June 4, 2012 — Mr. Goodale (Wascana) — That the House hereby affirm its support for the following measures to support Canada’s firefighters which, in the opinion of the House, the government should act upon promptly: (a) the creation of a national Public Safety Officer Compensation Benefit in the amount of $300,000, indexed annually, to help address the financial security of the families of firefighters and other public safety officers who are killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty; (b) the recognition of firefighters, in their vital role as “first responders,” as an integral part of Canada’s “critical infrastructure,” and as “health care workers” under the Canada Influenza Pandemic Plan, entitled to priority access to vaccines and other drugs in cases of pandemics and other public health emergencies; (c) the specification of firefighter safety as an objective of the National Building Code of Canada; (d) a review of the National Building Code of Canada, in conjunction with the International Association of Firefighters, to identify the most urgent safety issues impacting firefighters and the best means to address them.
At the same that M-388 was being adopted in the House of Commons, the IAFF was testifying before the Senate Standing Committee on Health about one of the issues it addressed – pandemic protection for fire fighters in order to ensure the continuation of critical emergency response services during an influenza pandemic.
The Senate testimony, lobbying by IAFF delegates at three successive Canadian Legislative Conferences and the close relationship with MP Patrick Brown led to discussions between the IAFF and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), which in 2013 confirmed a legislative victory with a commitment to revise the Canadian Pandemic Influenza Plan (CPIP) to specify that fire fighters should be grouped with other frontline responders.
While the current CPIP discusses the medical role of fire fighters and our place as a part of Canada’s critical infrastructure that should be protected during an influenza pandemic, a vaccine priority guidance the PHAC issued to local and provincial health officials during the H1N1 pandemic in 2009 placed fire fighters in the second of two tiers – the same tier as the general public.
In the past two years, MPs have drafted numerous private members’ bills and motions on IAFF issues and other issues affecting our members, including:
These bills and motions are on the notice paper and have not been formally introduced in the House of Commons. The IAFF is prepared to actively support any of these motions should they be drawn to proceed in the legislative process.
At the landmark 20th Canadian Legislative Conference in April 2013 and the 21st Canadian Legislative Conference in April 2014, IAFF leaders from across Canada conducted more than 120 meetings with MPs, Senators and senior staff, calling for federal support for the IAFF’s top legislative priorities.
At each conference, delegates recorded MP and Senator responses, which help us move those issues forward in the federal arena. Numerous MPs, Senators, Parliament Hill staffers and others of note, including Canadian Labour Congress officials, attended our annual parliamentary receptions.
Delegates at the 21st Canadian Legislative Conference met with a record number of Senators, and an online response card introduced for the 21st Canadian Legislative Conference enabled us to analyze MPs’ and Senators’ responses to our legislative issues in an unprecedented level of detail.
In the last two years, I watched proudly as the IAFF stood strong with other Canadian unions and with the Canadian Labour Congress in the fight against Bill C-377, an odious piece of legislation that was nothing more than an attack on unions and an attempt to curtail our right to be politically active while diverting precious resources away from representing our members.
Introduced by Conservative MP Russ Hiebert (South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale, BC), Bill C-377 proposed onerous financial reporting requirements for Canadian unions, and sought to make those reports available to the public. The bill was based on the totally false notion that there are Canadian union members who are regularly denied information about their unions’ finances, and the false claim that unions receive tax subsidies for their operations.
The IAFF and CLC maintain that Bill C-377 was a crass attempt by a government with a history of attacking unions to tie up unions in red tape, reduce our ability to be politically active, drive a wedge between union leaders and rank-and-file members and to peer into our books to see how we spend our political action resources.
Our union was among the most active in a CLC campaign against Bill C-377. IAFF members were among those who took part in a CLC rally against the bill on October 30, 2012 in Ottawa, and we followed the CLC’s guidance on when and how to assert our opposition.
When Bill C-377 was adopted in the House of Commons in December 2012, the IAFF began to advise affiliates how to respond to its pending enactment. But in June 2013, the Canadian Senate unexpectedly gutted Bill C-377 with a number of amendments, rendering it a shadow of the sharp tool the Conservative Government had in mind when it was drafted.
When Prime Minister Stephen Harper subsequently prorogued the Canadian Parliament in September 2013, Bill C-377 reverted back to the House of Commons in its original form, and was kicked back to the Senate again. But this time, the Canadian Government – beset with scandals over phony election robocalls and the role of the Prime Minister’s Office in attempting to cover up Senate spending abuses – had less appetite to risk an ongoing war with workers and their unions.
Bill C-377 remains stalled at Second Reading in the Canadian Senate, with no indication it will be moving forward anytime soon. But the IAFF and CLC remain vigilant against this legislation in the ongoing belief that undermining Canada’s unions is a priority for the Conservative Government.
I have been proud to see the effectiveness with which our FIREPAC Canada fund has been used on a wide range of political action initiatives at the local, provincial and federal levels in Canada.
I am also proud of the level of support FIREPAC Canada receives in the form of voluntary contributions from our Canadian members and Canadian leadership, and the number of Canadian affiliates that have implemented a FIREPAC Canada dues check-off.
Approved disbursements from the FIREPAC Canada Fund since the 51st Convention have totaled $499,125. This sum includes assisting with major political action initiatives during provincial and municipal elections in British Columbia and Alberta, and support for local issue-related political action initiatives by Toronto Local 3888, Rocky View County, AB Local 4794 and other cities.
The FIREPAC Canada fund is used to assist with costs associated with the Canadian Legislative Conference and Canadian legislative program and the Canadian Political Training Academy.
FIREPAC Canada is supported through dues and through voluntary contributions. Canadian members can register for IAFF events with FIREPAC Canada contributions. FIREPAC Canada is used at the federal level to educate IAFF members and politicians about the IAFF’s federal legislative priorities and to fund initiatives that support IAFF legislative issues.
The fund is used at the provincial and municipal levels upon approval to support the election campaigns of fire fighter-friendly candidates and for other political action purposes. Canadian federal law prohibits direct candidate contributions and most other federal election expenditures by unions and corporations.
Donor levels and gifts are identical to those available to U.S. IAFF members through the U.S. FIREPAC Fund. The Capitol Club level is designated Hill Club in Canada.
The IAFF Canadian Haz-Mat & CBRNE Training Initiative has continued to be extremely successful and a great credit to this great union, as it affirms our role as a leading advocate of public and fire fighter safety.
The program is a partnership with the government of Canada that provides a recognized level of Haz-Mat and Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive (CBRNE) response training to first responders across Canada free to municipalities thanks to federal government funding.
Announced by the Canadian government in 2007 as a direct result of IAFF lobbying, this program has trained close to 2,000 first responders in more than 190 rural and urban communities across Canada to a recognized level of response in an extremely cost-effective manner, thanks to funding contributions of up to $500,000 annually from the government of Canada. Feedback from students and from fire chiefs, municipal leaders and other officials whose departments have received training has been overwhelmingly positive. Officials from some of the smaller communities have commented that there is no way they would have otherwise been able to afford this important training.
In the last two years alone, 1,070 IAFF members, volunteer fire fighters, paramedics, police officers, military personnel, federal workers and other first responders received training in 54 separate classes, representing 25,680 contact hours.
In early 2013, following a strategic and direct approach to the Conservative Government and to senior Department of Public Safety officials, the IAFF was able to secure a one-year funding extension from the federal government that brought the program through to the end of March 2014. The extension was also made possible through behind-the-scenes assistance from Conservative MP Patrick Brown.
Our Canadian program has a cadre of 11 master instructors from IAFF locals across Canada, including two Francophone instructors who will be instrumental in expanding our program into Quebec and other French-speaking regions of Canada.
In 2013, our program secured a further endorsement from the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, and also received Pro Board Accreditation, two important steps that were needed to secure future funding from the federal government.
In early 2014, we continued a political action strategy targeted at senior public safety officials and, again, our efforts were met with success – this time in the form of a two-year extension that will see the program continue until March 2016. Our goal remains to secure additional long-term funding for the program.
One of the main goals of our Canadian Operations is to ensure that the vast range of IAFF services is available to our 22,083 members, tailoring those services where necessary in recognition of Canada’s unique labour, legislative and legal systems.
The IAFF Canadian Political Training Academy is a prime example of this function. Based on the IAFF’s highly successful U.S. Political Training Academy, the Canadian Political Training Academy is a premier event that delivers advanced political action skills to Canadian IAFF members who aspire to run for elected office or fulfill senior roles in the election campaigns of other candidates.
The Canadian Political Training Academy includes elements of a campaign, election laws, interactive political action scenarios and live media training. Content is delivered by top political experts who come from all sides of Canada’s political spectrum.
The inaugural Canadian Political Training Academy was held in May 2011 in Ottawa, with successive events in November 2012 and November 2013. A total of 47 IAFF members from locals across Canada graduated from the 2012 and 2013 editions of the Canadian Political Training Academy. Their new skills are a tremendous asset to their locals and to the IAFF.
The Biennial Canadian Policy Conference is a unique forum that allows the IAFF’s Canadian component to assemble every two years to debate and vote on resolutions that come from Canadian affiliates, with some of those resolutions coming forward to the IAFF Convention where appropriate.
Canadian IAFF local leaders at the Canadian Policy Conference held in Halifax, Nova Scotia in July 2013 adopted two important resolutions, including one that has resulted in an analysis of EMS in Canada and the establishment of a strategy to maintain and enhance the role fire fighters play in EMS, which is under increasing attack from paramedic associations and other groups.
Delegates also came away from the Biennial Canadian Policy Conference armed with communication strategies that will help them fight back against employer attacks on pensions and worker rights, such as collective bargaining.
The messaging strategies were developed by delegates during two special sessions that focused on identifying the strengths and weaknesses on current messages on pensions and bargaining, examined challenges facing locals, looked at the most effective way to convey desired messages to members, the public and the media, and discussed resources available to help local leaders launch effective communication strategies to protect fire fighters’ rights.
The conference attracted 100 delegates and 12 alternates. During the conference, Ann Bryan of Kingston, ON Local 498 and Clive Deonarine from Ajax, ON Local 1092, were elected to the IAFF Human Relations Committee.
The next edition of the Biennial Canadian Policy Conference will be hosted by Calgary, AB Local 255 in July 2015.
It’s been impressive to see how presumptive cancer and heart legislation has spread across Canada since the Manitoba Professional Fire Fighters Association first won these vital protections in 2002, and how our provincial associations have built off each other, with assistance from the International, to improve their coverage through the years.
The last two years have seen welcome advances in several provinces in the area of presumptive legislation for occupational diseases for the IAFF’s Canadian membership.
In March 2014, I proudly witnessed years of political action pay off when British Columbia restored presumptive heart legislation that was stripped away more than a decade ago by another government.
And at the end of April 2014, I watched as Ontario’s Liberal Government delivered on a promise to add six cancers to the list of those deemed occupational in Canada’s biggest province, a great legislative victory for the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association and a testament to its relationship with Ontario’s Liberal Government.
Also in 2014, there is a glimmer of promise in Newfoundland, the only province where Canadian IAFF members don’t have presumptive legislation, in the form of a positive report from a provincial agency studying the issue.
Since July 2012, the IAFF Canadian Office has responded to hundreds of individual requests for assistance from local and provincial affiliates. These requests ranged from basic questions about IAFF services to more detailed questions about fire fighter health and safety, labour relations, collective bargaining and other issues.
The Canadian Office also assisted several locals with custom services, including:
An attack on one fire fighter is an attack on all fire fighters. As we have helped countless U.S. locals fight back, I have ensured that in the past two years, the full weight of our resources has been brought to bear against an increasing number of attacks against our Canadian locals, including attacks against frontline staffing and apparatus, attacks on wages, pensions and the arbitration system, attacks on unions and the middle class, anti-union legislation at the federal level and in several provinces, attacks in the media and even attacks by the media.
Working as a team that includes the IAFF Canadian Office, IAFF headquarters and our Canadian District Vice Presidents, we fight back anytime governments, employers, media or anyone else targets our profession, whether it’s an attack on our jobs, our ability to respond safely and effectively on the frontlines, our wages and pensions, our hours of work, our right to be politically active or our reputation.
The IAFF stands with the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and other unions to work actively against legislation and other initiatives that are bad for Canadian workers. The IAFF actively participated in the lobby against Bill C-377 and actively participates in the CLC’s National Political Action Committee and was represented at a CLC Political Action conference in 2013.
In the last two years, the IAFF has provided on-the-spot assistance to numerous affiliates facing threats, including threats of layoffs, cuts to frontline services affecting public and fire fighter safety and discipline for union activity, and provided custom media relations assistance to countless locals that needed to respond to media reports or opinion pieces.
For example, the IAFF Canadian Office helped Owen Sound Local 531 and Midland Local 1581 fight back against local community groups that are mindlessly calling on their municipal councils to cut frontline fire department capabilities without any credible analysis of the impact on public safety or insurance premiums.
The IAFF has fought back and won in the case of a Canadian local president who was suspended for advocating improved public and fire fighter safety. In advance of a September 2012 municipal election, Corner Brook, NF Local 1222 placed a newspaper advertisement urging voters to ask election candidates questions about key safety issues. The ad highlighted safe staffing and NFPA standards, fire fighter skills and the value of the service to the community. It ended with the message, “During this election, please vote to protect us, so we can protect you.”
When the newspaper hit the streets, the town slapped Local 1222 President Geoff Sparkes with a one-week suspension consisting of four shifts. The town claimed Sparkes had violated a policy that restricts city employees from commenting on city issues, despite the fact the ad was clearly identified as coming from the local.
The local, with assistance from the IAFF Canadian Office and 15th District Vice President David Burry, responded immediately and pledged to fight back vigorously against the discipline.
The case was approved under the IAFF Legal Guardian Policy, and the local received assistance with filing a grievance and with a sharply-worded media release stating the town had “no business” telling the union what it could and could not say when it came to representing its members’ interests.
When a new council was elected in Corner Brook – including a new mayor – the grievance was overturned and Sparkes was compensated for lost wages that resulted from the suspension. Warning letters that three other local executives received in connection with the ad were also rescinded.
We helped Kitchener, ON Local 457, Windsor, ON Local 455, Woodstock, ON Local 477, Toronto, ON Local 3888, Ajax, ON Local 1092, Rocky View County, AB Local 4794, Penticton, BC Local 1399, Saint John’s NB Local 771 and others fight back against cuts to frontline fire protection or other threats.
At the provincial level, the IAFF has assisted the Saskatchewan Professional Fire Fighters Association in its fight against Bill 85, a regressive piece of legislation that upends decades of labour peace in the province with radical changes to labour laws, including stripping away access to binding arbitration from the province’s four smallest IAFF locals, which are already among the lowest paid in Canada.
In Alberta, the IAFF is assisting affiliates that are working to limit the damage of a vicious attack on public sector pensions by the province’s Progressive Conservative government, despite the fact the pensions plans are in good financial shape. In British Columbia, the arbitration system is also under attack and in New Brunswick, pension reform has affected several IAFF affiliates.
In Newfoundland Labrador, the provincial government refuses to enact presumptive cancer legislation despite the fact that studies link cancer to the profession and the coverage exists in virtually every other Canadian jurisdiction.
The IAFF also supports the Broadbent Institute, a non-partisan organization that strives to offset anti-worker and anti-union rhetoric with positive messaging about the contributions of workers and the socio-economic importance of a strong middle class.
In addition, the IAFF has had to fight back in print against poorly researched and inflammatory opinion pieces in a number of Canadian newspapers and magazines, such as Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente’s two error-filled attack pieces on fire fighters, which added nothing to the debate about public safety and public service, as well as an April 2013 article in MacLean’s Magazine that falsely implied fire fighters are the new “upper class” with average salaries of $100,000.
The IAFF responded that the MacLean’s article failed to point out that the few examples it cited were the result of retroactive, one-time payments resulting from arbitration awards or from overtime in understaffed departments, and that fighters typically work a 42-hour workweek, which is 234 hours per year more than most other salaried public sector workers.
We helped Port Alberni, BC Local 1667 highlight its members’ value to the community with a smartly worded letter to the editor in response to a local resident who continuously tries to mislead residents with inflammatory false information about fire fighter wages.
We helped the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association and Kitchener, ON Local 457 call out the city of Kitchener after it admitted it was slashing frontline fire protection “to send the Ontario [Professional] Fire Fighters Association and the province a message about the arbitration system.”
The flooding that overtook Calgary, Alberta and nearby communities in late June 2013 was simply shocking. I saw it with my own eyes as I visited there and toured the devastation by helicopter.
I also witnessed how IAFF members in southern Alberta had to protect citizens and infrastructure from the flooding while worrying about the safety of their own homes and families. It was a tremendous example of the bravery and duty we put into this proud profession, and I’ll never forget it.
I was particularly proud of the way that Calgary Local 255 responded to this disaster, with an Emergency Operations Centre set up in their new office building, and proud that 42 IAFF members affected by the flooding received financial assistance from the IAFF Disaster Relief Fund.
Our role in providing emergency medical response in Canada is under attack. In Ontario and British Columbia, response protocols are being tampered with to drastically reduce the number of medical calls fire fighters respond to. In some other provinces, fire fighters’ medical skills are wasted due to laws that prevent them from practising those skills in the field.
Excellent models of fire-based EMS in several Alberta and Manitoba communities are the exception and not the rule in Canada, while a vast, untapped resource for EMS goes untapped in too many parts of the country, and as a result, measures that would drastically improve patient care are being ignored, or worse, selfishly blocked by groups who view fire fighters as a threat.
The debate about fire fighters’ role in EMS in Canada has become mired in rhetoric and misleading information by rival service providers who wrongly fear that fire fighters are out to take away paramedic jobs rather than work together side-by-side in a system that puts the patient first.
But our union is not going to sit on the sidelines and watch these attacks unfold. Armed with the facts and studies that show fire fighters positively affect patient care and a resolution adopted at the Biennial Canadian Policy Conference in July, the IAFF has been working on a comprehensive EMS strategy designed to maintain and enhance the current level of participation in EMS by Canada’s professional fire fighters.
The initiative is a multi-faceted approach that closely involves the Canadian District Vice Presidents and Provincial Affiliate Presidents, and which will eventually require involvement of local affiliates and individual IAFF members on the frontlines.
Our strategy for EMS in Canada has a defining statement:
In every jurisdiction in Canada, fire fighters have an important role to play in the delivery of EMS as first responders and beyond. The focus of EMS delivery must be to provide the most efficient and effective service possible in emergency patient care. Fire fighters as part of the existing infrastructure are extremely-well positioned to provide efficient improvements to the current system. Patient outcome is too narrow of a description when analyzing EMS delivery; it must be broadened to consider overall patient care. The education of politicians, the media and the public through social media and traditional public relations methods will be a critical ingredient.
Elements of the strategy include a survey of Canadian affiliates, assembling a medical panel of doctors who will speak favourably and with authority about fire fighters’ role in EMS, a White Paper that will spell out the many benefits of fire fighter involvement in EMS, major public relations initiatives – including an IAFF Canada EMS that is being produced by E-18 Media – and an online presence.
We surveyed all Canadian local presidents and secretaries electronically in September 2013, and completed surveys were received from 149 affiliates representing more than 83 per cent of Canadian affiliates. This is an excellent sample size. Surveys were also returned for all eight provinces with IAFF affiliates.
The survey results painted a vivid picture of our role in EMS, and conform we’re right when we say we want to do more. The results quantify the national picture of fire’s role in EMS and support the existing IAFF position that fire fighters are an untapped resource for efficient and effective emergency medical response, that many fire fighters have medical skills that they are not required or not permitted to use in the field, and that a majority of our affiliates want to play a greater role in EMS delivery locally if the opportunity arises.
The survey also confirmed that 80 per cent of Canadian IAFF affiliates arrive on the scene of medical calls in five minutes or less, often before ambulance-based paramedics arrive. Almost half of survey respondents indicated they arrive before ambulances 50 per cent of the time or more. More than half of responding affiliates indicate that the protocols that determine which medical emergencies they attend have changed in the past five years.
The provincial survey was an effective tool in identifying many of the provincial-level factors that exist. Three provinces lack the legislation that would allow fire fighters to work as paramedics. Only a quarter of provincial respondents indicated the province’s fire chiefs would support a greater role in EMS, though only a quarter indicated their chiefs would oppose it.
Of concern, two-thirds of provincial respondents indicated that the individuals they identified as most influential over EMS in their province (either EMS chiefs or medical officers of health) were actively working to diminish the medical role of fire fighters.
At the same time, respondents from six of the eight provinces with IAFF affiliates indicated that the locals in their province were supportive of gaining an enhanced role in EMS delivery where opportunities might exist.
My goal is to ensure that EMS will continue to be a major focus for the IAFF in Canada throughout 2014 and beyond.
For too long, the conversation in Canada has been controlled by conservative voices that strive to undermine unions and the middle class. As certain governments attack pensions, wages and the arbitration system, too many journalists and editorial writers lazily repeat their right-wing rhetoric while failing to look critically at the need for a healthy middle class.
Fire fighters have not been immune to these attacks. Journalists publish misleading pieces about the 24-hour shift, fire fighter wages and pension plans, then the next day a fire fighter gets an earful at a neighborhood barbecue.
Too many local politicians and media focus on the cost of the fire service, not the value of it. They don’t see fire protection as an investment that saves lives and property, reduces the economic impact of commercial fires and lowers residential and commercial insurance rates.
Enough. It’s time to take back the conversation, to shoot back and to insert some facts in these debates and to redirect the discussion with positive messaging about our value to our communities.
In 2013, the IAFF Canadian Office began the development of a major initiative designed to constitute a hardy response to a rising tide of attacks against fire fighters and other public employees in Canada by employers and employer groups, certain political elements, consultants, business groups, right-wing think tanks and some corners of the media.
The Strategic Messaging Initiative stems from work done by delegates at the 2013 Biennial Canadian Policy Conference in Halifax. Delegates participated in two workshops that identified the prevailing anti-union and anti-fire messages on pensions, wages and other issues that need to be addressed, and the right messages to push out instead.
The record will be corrected where necessary, but the main goal of the strategy will be to change the narrative and put the focus in the value of fire fighters and fire protection and the sustainability of the public service, rather than continuing to chase the opponent’s arguments.
The goal is to provide you with the resources you need to message effectively in the media, to your members and at the neighborhood barbecue anytime the record needs to be set straight on an issue that affects fire fighter and hard-working and proud union members. Look for these resources to be available this year.
I am extremely proud of the ongoing support that our Canadian IAFF members have provided to Muscular Dystrophy Canada (MDC) in the past two years.
As a result of our extraordinary efforts, we raised almost $2.8 million for Muscular Dystrophy Canada in Fiscal Years 2012-2013 and 2013-2014, a remarkable accomplishment that will have an enormous impact on the 50,000 Canadian men, women and children affected by muscular dystrophy.
I am extremely proud of the rooftop campouts for MDC started by Edmonton Local 209 and have now spread to close to two dozen affiliates across Canada. I’m proud of locals like Edmonton and Barrie Local 1753, our Victoria area locals, Winnipeg Local 867, London Local 142 and St. Alberta Local 2130 that are always among our top fundraisers.
I’m proud of every IAFF local that raises funds for this great cause with ladder sits, boot tolls and other initiatives every year.
Your work enables them to reach their full potential by supporting Muscular Dystrophy Canada’s ongoing delivery of services while the organization also searches relentlessly for a cure through well-funded research.
The IAFF is proud and honoured to have such a unique partnership with Muscular Dystrophy Canada, one that’s been strong for more than 60 years. IAFF members never give up, we never leave a fire until it’s out and we will continue to support people with muscular dystrophy until a cure is found.