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Editor’s blog


March 19, 2013
By Laura King


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March 19, 2013, Ottawa – The most instructive moment in a meeting I sat in on yesterday between Grand Falls-Windsor, N.L., Fire Chief Vince MacKenzie and Newfoundland NDP MPs Jack Harris (St. John’s East) and Ryan Cleary (St. John’s South – Mount Pearl), happened when MacKenzie explained that sometimes when his volunteer crews show up at structure fires they’re facing three fires not just one – because the siding is burning on the homes on either side of the primary structure.

March 19, 2013, Ottawa – The most instructive moment in a meeting I sat in on yesterday between Grand Falls-Windsor, N.L., Fire Chief Vince MacKenzie and Newfoundland NDP MPs Jack Harris (St. John’s East) and Ryan Cleary (St. John’s South – Mount Pearl), happened when MacKenzie explained that sometimes when his volunteer crews show up at structure fires they’re facing three fires not just one – because the siding is burning on the homes on either side of the primary structure.

That seemed to be the pivotal point in a discussion about building codes, lightweight construction and residential sprinklers, and also the first time either MP understood the importance of sprinklers to residential and firefighter safety. Both asked good questions and seemed genuinely interested in the issues MacKenzie brought to the table in Harris’s office in the Centre Block on Parliament Hill.

That meeting was one of 68 scheduled over three days between CAFC delegates and dozens of MPs, five cabinet ministers, the deputy minister of Public Safety, and the senior assistant deputy ministers of Aboriginal Affairs and Industry Canada.

In addition, more than 115 parliamentarians have said they will attend Wednesday evening’s reception with CAFC delegates in the Speaker’s lounge, also in the Centre Block. Given that the House of Commons is in session this week and votes happen on Wednesday evenings, attendance is expected to be high despite the fact that the federal budget comes down Thursday.

That means, of course, that even though some nasty weather this morning is making the walk to and from the Hill a bit of a challenge, there’s an air of political drama overtaking Ottawa as budget day approaches. Thursday’s budget – which the advisors from Summa Strategies reminded CAFC delegates yesterday will be the focus for MPs this week – is likely to be fiscally conservative as the government attempts to eliminate the $26 million budget deficit by 2015, and big asks from the CAFC are unlikely to go over well.

However, items such as more fire-service involvement in the building code process and mandatory residential sprinklers are no-cost asks that will hit home with MPs, if delegates frame the issue properly in meetings today and tomorrow.

“There are not going to be many MPs who know much about building codes,” Summa’s Robin McLachlan told CAFC members Monday. “Pick your battle about what you want to focus on with them – firefighter safety, lightweight construction – but leave behind a focus on sprinklers as that is an uphill battle. Impress on them from your perspective the value of sprinklers.”

That’s exactly what MacKenzie did in his meeting, talking about a recent fire in a new subdivision in St. John’s during which the lightweight wood-truss roof collapsed, and showing the MPs BlackBerry photos of a fire in his community to illustrate the rapid fire spread in new construction.

On a lighter note, the CAFC’s newly minted challenge coin is expected to go over well this week as a memento for MPs and bureaucrats. Ottawa Deputy Chief Kim Ayotte explained to CAFC members the three purposes of a challenge coin. Most of you will likely know one – if you know all three use the comment box below to explain; the first person to reply correctly will win one of the new CAFC coins. Here are my three challenge coins – TERC Alberta, the new CAFC coin, and, my favourite, King Fire & Emergency Services!

edblog-march19-coins


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