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Editor’s blog


March 18, 2013
By Laura King


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March 18, 2013, Ottawa – As blogger Rob Evans put it last week, a week’s worth of work will be crammed into three days here in Ottawa for the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs government relations week.

March 18, 2013, Ottawa – As blogger Rob Evans put it last week, a week’s worth of work will be crammed into three days here in Ottawa for the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs government relations week.

I’m here as an observer, sitting in on meetings with MPs and joining CAFC president Steve Gamble Wednesday for his delegation to Health Canada on medical marijuana, and Cape Breton Regional deputy fire chief Brent Denny when he meets with Defence Minister Peter MacKay (which makes it a truly Nova Scotian contingent!).

CAFC members are bringing three key issues to MPs and ministers this week: strengthening the National Building Code to include residential sprinklers; improving fire protection and prevention in First Nations communities; and gaining an additional 10 megahertz (MHz) of the 700 MHz spectrum for first responders.

You’ll remember from Rob’s Size-up blogs from government relations week last year that Industry Minister Christian Paradis announced on March 14, 2012, that Ottawa would allocate 10 MHz of spectrum in the 700 MHz band for public safety broadband use. Since then, the Tri-Service Chiefs (police, fire, EMS), the Canadian Interoperability Technology Interest Group, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Provinces and Territories, and Public Safety Canada have lobbied for the additional 10 MHz.

The CAFC has noted in its briefings to members here this week that the additional 10 MHz represents about $2 billion.

“However, we also believe that robust, state-of-the-art public safety communications are essential to provide the public with the level of service, protection and security that it deserves and expects,” the CAFC says. “Responders need the right tools to protect and save lives. Public safety’s voice must be heard.” More on this tomorrow.

Meanwhile, no one here expects a government announcement this week – last year’s designation of the 10 MHz followed the 2011 federal tax credit for volunteer firefighters – rather the 40 CAFC members in the chilly nation’s capital are laying groundwork on the issues and making sure their MPs all hear the same messages.

Rob and I will keep you posted.

It was nice to see how excited CAFC member were to make the trek down Wellington Street to the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation monument that was unveiled here in September. Grand Falls-Windsor, N.L., Fire Chief Vince MacKenzie noted in a Facebook/Twitter post that standing in the cold, under beautiful blue skies yesterday, and seeing the names of fallen firefighters from Newfoundland and Labrador (he had attended the funeral of one of them) was powerful and moving.

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The CFFF firefighter monument in Ottawa on Sunday, March 17.
Photo by Vince MacKenzie.

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The CFFF monument unveiling in September.
Photo by Laura King.

Vince posted a photo of the monument – the wall of names of 1,111 fallen firefighters and the bronze statue – that happened to show the snow-covered ground around the park-like setting. This ignited (so to speak) some pretty interesting Tweets from tweeps who wondered why the monument grounds weren’t cleared during the winter.

Chief Bill Hunter of the Township of Perth East in Ontario (@chiefbillhunter) even e-mailed the National Capital Commission, which replied that it does not clear the monument grounds and that the CFFF is aware of this.

This led to a proposal for Scouts, Guides or other community groups to take on snow removal at the site as a project, or to equip some Ottawa firefighters with shovels – “If the NCC can not maintain it then we should,” one tweeter said. Spring isn’t quite in the air here in Ottawa but hopefully the snow-removal issue will be resolved before next winter.


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