Calgary firefighters ‘stretched to breaking point’: union

“With our current workforce, it’s safer to live in Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto than Calgary – Calgary is Canada’s least staffed metropolitan fire department”

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The union representing the Calgary Fire Department says the service has “stretched to its breaking point” and called on the city council to find an additional $10 million in next year’s budget to hire 56 firefighters.

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“With the new communities and developments on the outskirts of the city, our resources and firefighters are being stretched to breaking point,” Matt Osborne, president of the Calgary Firefighters Association, said Monday during the first day of the 2022 City Budget debate.

“Without investment in firefighters and in facilities, it will become increasingly difficult to provide services to these suburban and urban communities.”

The union said the hires are needed to bolster the service’s “discharge factor”: the minimum number of staff needed to maintain operations and cover absences due to vacation, illness, leave or training. The union said Monday that the service is already failing to meet provincial legal training standards due to staff shortages.

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“With our current workforce, it’s safer to live in Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto than Calgary — Calgary is Canada’s least-staffed metropolitan fire department,” Osborne said, citing data indicating the city is not currently National Fire compliant. protection. Agency standard of four firefighters per rescue vehicle.

The firefighters’ union was one of more than a dozen public presenters to address the council Monday on topics such as accessible sidewalks, public transportation and cycling infrastructure.

The council is due to decide this week whether to approve the city council’s proposed budget increase, which would result in a small tax increase of 0.64 percent by 2022.

If the City Council also requests a request from the Calgary Police Department for a $6 million budget increase to support recruiting, next year the rate will increase by just under one percent. CPS leaders will speak with the council on Tuesday afternoon about the request.

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However, there are signs that some councilors will push for additional spending in next year’s budget in areas such as art, climate change mitigation and snow removal from roads and sidewalks. Preliminary estimates from city workers suggest the cumulative impact could reach a tax increase of more than three percent.

There is also a proposal on the table to draw an additional $55 million from city reserves for the stimulus program designed to encourage owners of downtown office buildings to convert them for other uses. Council chosen in the spring to put $45 million into the program, but there are currently more applications than available funding.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek said she was not surprised to hear requests for more service from many of the people who spoke at City Hall on Monday, and many councilors, newly elected just a month ago, have the concerns and wishes of their constituents fresh in their minds. memory.

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“We’ve had a very long campaign period where council members had time to interact with Calgarians and find out what’s important to them,” she said.

“I think the questions you hear from them today reflect what they heard at the doors.”

Many of the spending proposals before the council this week focus on hiring more city employees in various departments.

City manager David Duckworth said on Monday municipal staffing levels are at 2014 levels and there is “significant pressure” on existing employees. He said the city council’s proposed budget is the “bare bones” of what it takes to retain and attract talent.

“We’re at a time when if we don’t invest in ourselves I’m seriously afraid of losing good people to the private sector and other government agencies across Canada and I can tell you it’s happening now,” Duckworth said.

With files by Madeline Smith

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