June 26th, 2024

NDP: Ontario needs more forest firefighters and Ford is sitting on his hands while fires rage

QUEEN’S PARK – Wildfires are raging in Ontario, and the province is short-staffed by 25%, but Doug Ford and his government are backing away from an earlier commitment to reclassify Wildland Firefighters to Firefighters.

“It’s peak wildfire season and the province doesn’t have enough forest firefighters to send to each burning location. That means we are choosing which fires to put out and which will keep burning, risking nearby communities,” said NDP MPP and critic for Natural Resources and Forestry Guy Bourgouin (Mushkegowuk—James Bay).

In February the government said they would change the classification, but now seem to be going back on their word.

Along with OPSEU, NDP MPPs Bourgouin, WSIB and Injured Workers critic Lise Vaugeois (Thunder Bay—Superior North), and Labour critic, Jamie West (Sudbury) have repeatedly called on the government for this change. This reclassification will make them eligible for better wages and benefits that match the risks and responsibilities of this essential and dangerous job. The province is short-staffed, resulting in many crews that are young and inexperienced, leaving all workers at risk and communities inadequately protected.

“The reclassification of forest firefighters to firefighters is a quick and easy fix. The Minister could make this happen today,” said West.

“The government needs to follow through on the commitments they made to Wildland Forest Firefighters,” said Vaugeois. “Back pedaling on workers’ health and safety and ignoring the service’s inability to retain experienced firefighters creates an unacceptable risk to these workers and to all northern communities dependent on the fire service for survival.”