New legislation protects “double hatters”

“Double-hatters” have some new protection under provincial legislation.

Double-hatters are professional firefighters who also serve on volunteer fire services.

The proposed amendments come under the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997 (FPPA) introduced as part of the 2018 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review (Bill 57).

The new guidlines would protect “double-hatters” and reform the interest arbitration process for firefighters to improve accountability, transparency and efficiency.

“Many Ontario communities rely on volunteer firefighters to protect homes, families and livelihoods,” said Laurie Scott, Minister of Labour.

“Full-time firefighters who want to help their neighbours by acting as volunteer firefighters face potential discipline from their associations or threats to their full-time jobs. Our proposed reforms to finally protect “double-hatters” will promote public safety and allow firefighters to choose how they volunteer, in their free time.”

West Lincoln Fire Chief Dennis Fisher says he’s happy to see the new legislation.

“I think we all are thinking the same thing and happy the new legislation is getting put into place  and long time coming,” said Fisher.

“It certainly will have a tremendous impact for all the fire services across the province for career firefighters  to serve in their communities.”

Lincoln Fire Chief Greg Hudson says that, for years, the Town of Lincoln has invested significant time and thousands of dollars to train individuals to become fully certified firefighters only to lose them due to pressure by their union if they are hired elsewhere.

“In Lincoln, we have lost countless valuable members who were hired as full-time firefighters in other municipalities and then forced by their union to quit volunteering,” said Hudson.

The proposed amendments in Bill 57 would allow municipalities to resist any pressure to dismiss professional firefighters for “double hatting” and ensure that professional firefighters cannot face association penalties for the act.

Hudson said these amendments are needed for the survival of Ontario’s volunteer fire departments.

“The proposed changes to the FPPA which protect volunteer firefighters are vital for the preservation and sustainability of volunteer fire departments throughout the province,” said Hudson.

“If a municipality’s volunteer fire department fails, the alternative is a career fire department which is prohibitively expensive for all except large cities.”

Hudson continued, saying that Lincoln’s volunteer firefighters are every bit as trained and capable as a professional department without the associated cost.

“Volunteer firefighters in Lincoln are trained to the same level as full-time firefighters and provide the same services as a full-time fire department for a fraction of the cost,” he added.

Hudson says he’s happy about Bill 57.

“This legislation is long-awaited and very welcome news!”

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