MR. CHAIRMAN: Good evening and welcome to the Select Committee on Fire Safety. My name is Jon Carey. I am from Kings West and chairman of this committee. We will start with an introduction of our committee, starting with Kerry.
[The committee members introduced themselves.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: We have one member who will be here, I understand he is on the way, Ronald Chisholm. Graham Steele of the NDP caucus and Brian Boudreau of the Liberal caucus are also on this committee but are unable to be with us this evening.
We have been at two meetings and because of the value that we naturally put on life and the appreciation we have for firemen, we would like to take just a moment to recognize the 300-odd firefighters who were killed in New York. I think it would be appropriate if we just stood for a moment of silence in remembrance of those and other fallen firefighters.
[One minute of silence was observed.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much.
Welcome to this meeting on the Select Committee on Fire Safety. The select committee is an all-Party Committee. We have been charged with the responsibility of making recommendations to the House of Assembly on a new law for fire safety. We are reviewing proposed changes to the Fire Prevention Act which are contained in Bill No. 58. Bill No. 58 was introduced in the House of Assembly in June 2000. Now the government wants to widen its base of comments from the public and complete the legislation. We are also meeting with Nova Scotians. We would like to hear from the public, as well as people who will be directly affected by the new law, such as insurance companies and other businesses, municipalities and the fire service.
We are meeting in nine communities across the province and this is our third meeting. The input we gather will give us the best possible fire protection legislation for Nova Scotia. The new law will take into account changes in municipalities in the last couple of years. A law can last for years so it is important to get things right from the beginning. Once we have collected and reviewed all submissions, we will make recommendations and a report to the House of Assembly.
Bulleted details on Bill No. 58:
- sets up a framework for fire safety
- assigns responsibility to the individual and to organizations that work to prevent fires, people who fight fires, companies and individuals who own land, insurers, municipalities and provincial government officials like the fire marshal
- sets up an advisory council to advise the Minister of Environment and Labour on matters related to fire safety
- directs what individuals and organizations in the province must do to prevent fires and how they must act once a fire has occurred
- provides direction for making sure the Fire Marshal's Office has representation in each municipality, important for educating people on how to prevent fires
- it helps the fire marshal determine what caused fires. This is important for insurance and crime prevention reasons
- assigns roles to people who are responsible for preventing fires, for putting them out, for reporting fires, for investigating them, the Fire Marshal's Office and the municipalities
- assigns responsibilities to people or organizations that own land or businesses. These people have certain responsibilities for preventing fires and for reporting fires that do take place. Insurance companies also have responsibilities assigned by the law
- it forbids certain activities. For example, if this bill becomes law, it would be against the law to give false information to a fire official investigating a fire or to tamper with a device that would help people escape a burning building
- it discusses what regulations the government can write to further protect Nova Scotians from fire and to reduce the harm of fire
- it establishes a fire safety advisory council to advise the Minister of Environment and Labour on matters of fire safety.
We are going throughout the province to get as much information as we can from the public to make sure that we do the very best we can with this bill. So we would ask anyone and everyone who has any input they would like to give to present it this evening. If you would give your name to Kim, at the back, for recording purposes, to get your name and if you have an organization or whatever, to recognize that, and then if you would come forward and have a seat at one of the microphones at the front table, we would be delighted to hear from anyone and everyone.
Do we have any people who would like to present?
FIRE CHIEF ROSS TUGWELL: Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Chairman. I have a couple of questions, I guess, and I am hoping that you could answer those for me. On Page 7, Clause 14(1) states that "The Fire Marshal may appoint as a local assistant to the Fire Marshal a qualified fire chief or another qualified member of the fire chief's fire department." What are those qualifications?
MR. CHAIRMAN: I am not sure at this time that this committee would be in a position, I do see the fire marshal in the audience. Bob, do you have that information at this time?
MR. ROBERT CORMIER (Fire Marshal): Yes, I do.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Would you be prepared to present it this evening?
MR. CORMIER: Mr. Chairman, one of the problems we have noticed over the last number of years with the Fire Prevention Act is that it automatically appoints the fire chief as a responsible party as soon as they take office. A number of fire chiefs, of course, are unaware of the Fire Prevention Act when they receive that election to office. What we were trying to do is provide the fire department with an out that if the fire chief did not feel they
wanted to assume the responsibilities for the investigation of fires and inspection of properties under the emergency section, then they could assign another member of the department who had some qualifications. At this point in time, we do a four hour training program called Legislation Awareness. It is really an update to bring the chiefs up to a level of understanding of what their responsibilities are. That would be added to, in time, give them a clearer understanding. Again, we are not looking at a one week training program, we are looking at probably one day. So it was an out for the fire chief who did not feel they were competent to handle that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. Mr. Tugwell.
MR. TUGWELL: I apologize, Mr. Chairman. My name is Ross Tugwell. I am the Chief of the Linacy Fire Department and Vice President of the Pictou County Firefighters Association. So some of these questions are for clarification for the entire county.
Page 8, Clause 14(4), "Local assistants to the Fire Marshal shall, within their territorial jurisdiction and, subject to the directions of the Fire Marshal, administering this Act, the regulations and the Fire Code." What additional duties for the local assistants are being spelled out here? Keep in mind that we are all volunteer members already spending too much time away from our families and what training is the fire marshal's office going to provide here?
MR. CORMIER: Again, the number one responsibility is the responsibility for the inspection of properties. One of the things that had been used over the years was the concept that the municipalities felt the fire chiefs were carrying out the fire inspections on behalf of the municipalities which was not true in all cases. We spelled that out very clearly that the chief cannot be appointed nor can a member of the fire department be appointed as fire inspector without the written consent of the fire department. In other words, there has to be a paper trail to show that this action is actually being done. So that major activity has been taken out.
The only other two that have serious consequences are the fire investigation which would be done exactly as it is now being done. Where the local authority can't determine cause or needs assistance, they have the right to call in the Fire Marshal's Office for assistance. The other part is that we do run into problems periodically with hazardous activities. For instance, when the wooded areas of the province were closed this year and there was a ban on fires, the Department of Lands and Forests has no authority over campgrounds and we did have a couple of fire chiefs who had to go into those campgrounds and order the fires not to be lit in those campgrounds for that reason and the only authority they have to do that is under the Fire Prevention Act. So those are the sort of things that we have been doing and will continue to do. Again, the fire chief is not being looked on to assume the responsibilities of the municipality for the inspection of properties.
MR. TUGWELL: Clause 30 talks about the sum of $1,000 and later being reimbursed by the municipality with interest after all rights of the appeal process, pursuant to this Act, are exhausted. It also talks about the installation of temporary safeguards including portable fire extinguishers and smoke alarms. Who is going to pay for some of this stuff? As I said earlier, a lot of our firefighters are spending too much time away from their families now trying to raise the necessary funds to run these fire halls and if they are going to spend upwards of $1,000 through the court system, it might be some time before they get that money back and some departments, especially here in Pictou County, just can't afford that.
MR. CORMIER: That is the responsibility of the municipality for the expenditure of the funds, not the fire department. That is presently in the Act, although the amount is only $100 at this time and, as you can well imagine, we can't even board up doors and windows for $100. So the municipality has always been responsible for that and it can't be done without permission of the minister. Then the municipality has a right, through the taxation, to bill back the owner.
The other thing we tried to build in there is that at present the fire departments are providing property protection and the evidence protection on properties where we do have fires by putting guards on the property. Most times the insurance companies will reimburse the fire departments for that but we wanted to make sure that would occur so we have a billing process in that for the fire departments to recoup that cost.
MR. TUGWELL: The last thing, some time ago, a New York firefighter lost his life after being burned attempting to extinguish a fire. I am sure Bob might remember this - he suffered for weeks - and at some time after his funeral his wife was in Pictou County to talk to us at the Pictou County Fire School. It was during her presentation that she suggested that we, as Canadians, treat fires the same as some Europeans do and that is that a lot of these cases are not called accidental. If we lose a firefighter or anyone for that matter, due to negligence, those people are charged with murder. I don't see that in this.
MR. CORMIER: Okay, there are two aspects to it. First is the administrative law which we have the control on the activity for that. If the Legislature gives us the authority to do so, there are fines up to $250,000 against individuals or corporations for major impact on communities. This came about because of the Plastimet fire in Hamilton when they had the major plastics fire there. There was absolutely nothing that the provincial government could go back against the directors of that company for. So we put some protection in for that.
As for the individual, if there is negligence or if the individual was aware there were fire hazards within the building that they did not rectify, the Criminal Code of Canada, under the arson section, provides a criminal negligence section in there for the holding accountable of anybody who does. The problem is that we, in Canada, have always treated fire as an accident and everybody has a fundraiser. We have not taken this seriously but certainly the two major national organizations, both the Fire Chiefs Association and the Fire Marshals
Association, have been pushing for the criminal law to be taken more seriously in matters such as the one you refer to but the law is there for it but it is under the Criminal Code.
MR. TUGWELL: Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Do any of our members have any questions or discussion with Mr. Tugwell?
MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Through you, Mr. Chairman, the cost of these increased standards that volunteer firefighters have to find themselves keeping up with, so to speak, that is your primary concern.
MR. TUGWELL: That is part of it, sir.
MR. MACKINNON: So that would be more of an administrative issue, speaking from the Act, than the legislative. Now, that having been said, I am trying to understand your question. Your question is, what responsibility does the provincial government or the Fire Marshal's Office have in terms of helping to defray the costs?
MR. TUGWELL: That is correct.
MR. MACKINNON: Do you feel that you have received that answer satisfactorily?
MR. TUGWELL: I am not sure.
MR. MACKINNON: The other question, I guess, is for Mr. Cormier. I was a little taken aback when you indicated that Lands and Forests officials don't have the authority to go in and deal with fires in provincial parks.
MR. CORMIER: Not provincial parks, private campgrounds.
MR. MACKINNON: Okay, private campgrounds. My question would be, why are they given the permission to issue fire permits if they are not qualified or they don't have the authority to do that?
MR. CORMIER: These are campgrounds and these are campfires.
MR. MACKINNON: Well, a fire is a fire. It doesn't matter where it is at.
MR. CORMIER: I absolutely agree, sir, but it is on private campground lands and the authority apparently is not there.
MR. MACKINNON: Not even under the Lands and Forests Act?
MR. CORMIER: Not under the Lands and Forests because there is an allowance under the Lands and Forests Act for certain types of burning in certain areas.
MR. MACKINNON: So you are saying conceivably that I could burn several acres of brush on my property . . .
MR. CORMIER: No, that is not what I said. I said campfires. These campfires in this particular one, they were not using what we would consider to be adequate style of campfire construction. In other words, they weren't using bricks and mortar to create a fire pit. What they had been using was old truck rims and that was not adequate for the purpose.
MR. MACKINNON: So there is no provincial Lands and Forests official, forester, or otherwise who has the authority . . .
MR. CORMIER: The fire chief was informed by the Lands and Forests official that they could not go in and prevent those campfires from being lit.
MR. MACKINNON: Recently?
MR. CORMIER: During this summer's burn ban.
MR. MACKINNON: Is that in writing?
MR. CORMIER: I can check to see if I can find it. I doubt if it was because I would imagine he called.
MR. MACKINNON: If it is, would you provide it to members of the committee?
MR. CORMIER: I can give you the name of the fire chief and you can check with him.
MR. MACKINNON: Yes. Would you give an undertaking to the committee to provide that?
MR. CORMIER: Yes.
MR. MACKINNON: I will be honest, that is not my understanding of the Act. I believe a forester within the Lands and Forests Division, which is now Natural Resources, does have the authority, so I am quite surprised at that. But that is more administrative.
One final question if I could, Mr. Chairman, what initiatives or thought processes has the Fire Marshal's Office undertaken to address the issue of the increased cost of volunteer firefighters as a result of this particular proposed legislation?
MR. CORMIER: This particular proposed legislation should not increase the cost to the fire service one cent.
MR. MACKINNON: Volunteer fire service?
MR. CORMIER: Volunteer fire service. There is nothing in there that is different from the present Act except to remove some of the responsibilities that the chiefs originally had from them. For instance, presently fire chiefs are required to sign authority for people to set off fireworks, family fireworks. That has been removed. On the issue of investigation, it is there now. All we are trying to do is on expenses they are incurring now on our behalf, we are trying to find a process for them to recover those costs.
MR. MACKINNON: But we have heard for the last three days in Sydney, Port Hawkesbury and again this evening that there are increased costs.
MR. CORMIER: What you have heard over the last three days is the fact that the standards for firefighters, morally and ethically, are trying to be met by the fire service of this province. There is nobody anywhere in this province who has created legislation or intends to create legislation that impacts the volunteer fire service. What it is is a need to address issues such as safety, efficiency and effectiveness. The standards are there but they are guidelines and that was what was sent out to the fire service, guidelines. This is what would normally be expected of the fire service. Your committee has asked for those guidelines and they have been sent to you for your perusal.
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, on a point of clarification, Mr. Cormier knows full well guidelines are not enforceable in a court of law, is that correct?
MR. CORMIER: That is correct.
MR. MACKINNON: So what you are saying to our fire chief here this evening is that all these proposed increased standards are not necessarily incumbent upon themselves to . . .
MR. CORMIER: The municipality who signs an agreement for the volunteer fire service to supply the service to the community can accept the volunteer fire service at whatever level that municipality or that community decides to accept that fire department at.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Am I correct, Mr. Cormier, that municipalities have had this responsibility for some time to provide inspectors and so on and some have done it more diligently than others?
MR. CORMIER: That is correct.
MR. CHAIRMAN: This bill as it is now written would encourage them to do it better and to get a higher standard of . . .
MR. CORMIER: I believe it removes any doubt as to who is specifically responsible for that activity.
MR. CHAIRMAN: And so the reality is that the municipality should be working with their fire service to help them improve so that the costs would be covered by the municipality to the department, is that it?
MR. CORMIER: In a number of municipalities, the fire inspector is not associated with the fire service at all and that is the avenue some municipalities may choose to take. Others may request their fire department to do it in which there has to be a signed agreement between the two parties for it and not an assumption it is going to be done. I believe the honourable member is referring to the costs represented by increased fire service standards, that is the suppression standards for Level 1 firefighters for the vehicles to meet certain standards, for occupational health standards and I believe these are the standards he is referring to. The only thing that has been issued by my office has been a set of guidelines to help the departments define what those standards mean. We also Canadianized them because they were written for the American marketplace and we had to put in for the CSA standards, the ULC standards and the standards for Canadian firefighter clothing.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Any other questions for Mr. Tugwell or Mr. Cormier? Thank you. We do have a record but if you wanted to make your requests that you asked tonight available to the members, we would be happy to work on that issue to try to obtain answers that may reassure you further.
Any further presenters? If you have anything at all that you would like to share regarding the fire service, some may fall directly under this Act but we certainly are here as members of the Legislature to carry your message back to the appropriate people. Perhaps we will take a few moments' break and if there are no presenters after that we will adjourn the meeting but we don't want anyone to go away not thinking they had an opportunity to speak. We will reconvene in about five minutes.
[7:25 p.m. The committee recessed.]
[7:34 p.m. The committee reconvened.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: I understand we do have another presenter who we are pleased to hear from. Mr. Bedford.
MR. GEORGE BEDFORD: What I have to say are comments I want to make myself on behalf of a number of things. They basically deal with the manner in which I can or can't fight fires. I will read these to you because I made these jotted notes in a hurry this afternoon and I haven't read the Act in its totality for some time. Basically in the Act is a lot of - well, I don't consider it too pertinent but it is necessary and I am all upset by that. I am upset by some of the things that could be incorporated within it, by not paying attention to the details.
For instance, if you were to adopt some of the American - let me say it this way - I can't ride fellas on the back of the truck, it is foreboden, so they say. I just talked with Bob Cormier there now and he tells me no, he can't legislate it - he would like to legislate against it - it hasn't been legislated against that, but okay I am dealing in Pictou, specifically, with one bird on council who is giving me a lot of trouble.
I have next to been threatened that if I put anybody on the back of that truck, hey it will be game over. I don't think that's right and if Mr. Cormier could just verify that, right Mr. Cormier? You said you didn't agree with it, correct? You didn't agree with it but there was nothing wrong with it, see? As long as I establish that in front of the Nova Scotia Government representatives here, I am happy. I can go back because it doesn't make sense. You can't leave the station with one guy driving and one guy in the truck and we are going to a major fire and there are three other guys waiting to go there and I am going to say get there the best way you can; not, don't hang onto the back of the truck, it may be dangerous.
We have been hanging onto the back of those trucks for 40 years, never lost a man. It did nothing but expedite things when we got there. Let me explain it to you. When you get to a fire the first thing you have to have is water, I think everybody would agree with that. How do you get the water? You get the water from the hydrants. You get a guy on back, okay, he is standing there. The driver pulls up to a hydrant, the guy jumps off the back, pulls a length of hose, he wraps it around the hydrant and away goes the guy to the fire and we have water in seconds, so we are dealing with that. Supposedly you are not allowed to do that and now after leaving here tonight I am allowed to do it, I made it public to you, nobody said you can't do it. Mr. Cormier the fire marshal said okay, I don't agree with you but I can't turn you down. So, whatever you do, don't legislate that into law. We need it, I need it, everybody needs it.
When the ball teams come home, the kids come home from winning these soccer matches and hockey games - and Pictou is a great winning town, Pictou is a big winning town, ladies and gentlemen. I hate to say that to you, it is a great winning town and we have a great winning girl there who has come along great all the time, Muriel (Fluff) Baillie; let's give Muriel a clap here too, I mean it, she's a good kid. (Laughter) I can't put the kids on the top of the truck with the RCMP going ahead, a sensible man standing on behind - we had a minister and doctor on behind when we had to quit it one day, they were going to make a fuss if I did it.
I have been told time and again, rather than win the pennant from Toronto with the bands and everything else, the trip around town with the fire truck and the kids sitting on the top waving at everybody and saying hey, hey, hey, that was better than winning the pennant wherever they went. Now I can't do that. Let's legislate this into effect so I can do this. Let's make things better, let's not make things worse. Let's develop some interest in the fire departments. You would be surprised what you can do with children.
You can't slide down the pole anymore in case some fellow goes up and falls down. Now we don't live in a community that has sleeping quarters upstairs but they tell me now they are not allowed to do it, it is too dangerous. Hey, a kid that high, how many people ever fell down those holes? I don't know of any. That is a small thing and riding on the fire truck is a great thing. You have to give the kids a thrill so that later on - dedicated volunteers are hard to come by now.
If you want to legislate something, forget about the legislation and let's put our backs and our interest into developing volunteers. Let's inspire them and say hey, grab the truck. There is a little boy in everybody and that has to stay. If you haven't got the little boy in you you have nothing. You have to have dedicated people who fight fires. When the fire is all over and the dirty work is done and you have to wrap up the hose, I have seen guys at 3:00 a.m. singing. But you have to get good, respectable, honest people. This is where your initiatives should be driven.
I am spouting off and I will sign off, but I will read some of the stuff I have written, okay? To make a full and formal presentation with the lead time necessary, myself, to prepare such an article has not been possible. I couldn't do that, I should have had it done before but I have not done it. I'm sorry I haven't but I don't see a whole lot in that on which I could have improved, some I could have.
Consequently, I offer for your serious consideration what I consider is an overview of anything that may be contained in your documentation to be enacted into law. Whatever else lies within this paper, there should be a notwithstanding clause that affords to myself or the officer in charge carte blanche, where he can't be sued for trying to do his duty as he sees fit and as he sees fit at that point in time, not three days later when the columnists and the commentators comment upon it by saying, why did you do it that way. Hey, point in time is lost then. You should give consideration to affording protection. I'm not saying you cover idiotic people, you simply weed them out then but this must be done. We can't go around in fear and trepidation of doing something where you could get personally wiped out; that's not right.
There should be a notwithstanding clause that overrides any policy contained within this proposal that is before you tonight that spells out in simple terms - I don't know how many of you birds are lawyers but I am going to tell you right now - and I don't blame you for writing things in and making business for yourselves - simplicity is the basis of everything
and I am sure you guys understand and have heard this before - maybe you haven't heard it in today's school, that was 40 years ago. Simplicity is the basis of everything, we don't need to have something written here, clause such and such, article two, paper one. By the time you look at that you don't bother with paper one. I thought I would just mention that. It should spell out in simple terms the authority of the jurisdiction of the fire chief or officers or those in command.
Okay, don't take this too much to heart but I suggest to you that each and every one of you take time to study, read and re-read and to knowledgeably understand what is in that bill so if you had to write a test on it next week, next month, next year - no hurry in passing this, it is not going to change anything whether it goes through today, tomorrow, next month or next year or in five years, it won't make any difference, it is not going to change anything.
As one fellow said as he jumped aboard the truck and one of the old fellows was driving, he said geez, we have to get there in a hurry, floor it. The old fellow said to him look boy, there is one thing about it and he said what's that? It's going to burn till we get there. You can laugh at that, can I get a chuckle anyway? You would have to know these individuals involved in such a manner that you could say that and not take it and thinking, he's going to go any slower but it is a nice anecdote, I think.
Okay, I suggested that you read this bill and be as knowledgeable about it as you can. I don't know how you could possibly do it and as applicable to Nova Scotia, needed by Nova Scotia and as you, as our elected personnel, see and view it. But whatever else is written, there must be that other clause.
Great care must be enacted and exercised in enacting legislation that brings into force rules and regulations written and constructed for the large cities, the paid, professional firemen. These rules and regulations, while perhaps applicable to city departments and areas of large population concentration, may on the surface be or seem to be okay but certainly do not necessarily either aid, abet or assist areas with a population unable to financially support or to have the need to support such as what is dictated therein. That's a long sentence but it wasn't a bad sentence and it says a lot.
That is about all I have to say, to ask you for a notwithstanding clause and it should be in there, it has to be in there and notwithstanding any rules of occupation which must be relaxed when a fire chief must - and I am sure this is covered in the Act now - have tremendous authority and can order whole buildings to be bulldozed down to stop a major fire so you can't have an idiot at the helm and he can do certain things and they can be charged against the taxpayers. I'm sorry I didn't produce better for you; I could have, but I think that might get you thinking and I hope it does. You can ask me anything and I will tell you the truth, straight from the shoulder.
MR. CHAIRMAN: You certainly have the opportunity to write something and send it to your MLA, to one of us, to Halifax and we would be more than happy because we will review e-mail, faxes, letters, anything at all, we want the information. If you would like to do that, but we have certainly heard your comments. Does anyone have a question? Russell, I would be disappointed. (Laughter)
MR. MACKINNON: That's all right. Mr. Chairman, I wanted to address a rather important point that Mr. Bedford . . .
MR. BEDFORD: George.
MR. MACKINNON: . . . George, raised. You may or may not, through you, Mr. Chairman, be aware of the "Good Samaritan" Act. There is this issue about due diligence. Well, wait now, George.
MR. BEDFORD: I didn't say a word.
MR. MACKINNON: The expression says it all. In Clause 47 of this particular proposed legislation, there is a provision that says, "No action lies or shall be instituted against Her Majesty in right of the Province or an officer or employee of Her Majesty, the Fire Marshal or any person acting under the Fire Marshal's authority, a deputy fire marshal, a provincial inspector, a local assistant or a delegate . . . a fire chief, a fire department or an officer, member or employee of a fire department, including a member empowered . . .", and so on and so forth, shall be held liable, ". . . for any loss or damage suffered by a person because of an act or omission done in good faith by the person or body". So I think that pretty well addresses your concern. That is the notwithstanding clause that you are talking about. I believe that is incorporated in that. You take that in conjunction with the "Good Samaritan" Act and you have exactly the basis for the protection that you are referring to.
I think what you are saying - and you can correct me, George - is by not having that protection, you are chasing away a lot of well-intended and community-minded volunteers and people are becoming so apprehensive, it is almost as if we are becoming Americanized. Every time somebody makes a mistake, somebody runs for a lawyer and wants to sue them. It is not a question of if or when, it is how fast can you get there and get as much as you can. Am I correct on that and does that address your concern?
MR. BEDFORD: No. They tell me that there are loopholes in the "Good Samaritan" Act.
MR. MACKINNON: Okay, what about the section that says . . .
MR. BEDFORD: This I have heard . . .
MR. MACKINNON: What about Clause 47? Does that not offer you the relief or the protection that you are asking for? It states quite clearly that it can't be held liable because of something that is done in good faith.
MR. BEDFORD: Yes, I guess, but I'm not sure. I was addressing that for another reason as well. Okay, in fact a year ago tonight, lightning struck a church in the Town of Pictou and knocked out the steeple some six feet or eight feet down. Mr. Rogers came down from New Glasgow at my behest and he helped us knock out the fire. Correct, Tom? He did. He can take a bow, too, and give him a clap. He helped us. In the course of that, we get another alarm. I can't tell my guys to get aboard the truck and go. I have to say, you have to get down the street to such and such a place, there was a transformer hit or something.
I am in a bad position, if you can understand. I'm told I can't do this and yet they have to get to a fire. It does not make sense. I didn't. They humped her down themselves and that wasn't right but notwithstanding that, I'm saying I had to protect myself from what perhaps the council had edicted that we should no longer do and that is not right. A fire chief has to make decisions that are dangerous at the time and as I pointed out before, in the light of the days of fall, they could be interpreted both ways. Most things can be. It depends how you see it, on what point of view.
The guy who had the accident and he saw the car smash up, there was one on this side of the street and one on this side of the street. This guy went to court and he testified that car was white. This guy went to court and he testified this car was black. It was two-toned. That's what I am getting at. That's the point I am trying to make, if you can follow me. You need all the protection you can get.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Cormier, I believe you had some clarification, perhaps, on that.
MR. BEDFORD: I will sit beside you. I won't look you in the eye. (Laughter)
MR. CORMIER: Mr. Chairman, the situation is that the particular protection that Chief Bedford is looking for is found in the Municipal Government Act and not in the Fire Prevention Act. The Fire Prevention Act is there before the incident and after the incident. During the incident, the Municipal Government Act, and when we rewrote the Municipal Government Act, we were very careful to ensure we put the strongest language possible for the protection of the fire departments.
We also have protection from the courts, both the Newfoundland court as well as the Alberta court, even though fire departments are being held accountable at times, have both held that the community defines the level of fire protection they can afford and that an outside source should not expect more than what the community is willing to provide. That was the
result of a school fire in Belleisle where the insurance company sued for recovery of the cost of the school because they felt the fire department should have more resources.
The particular situations that Chief Bedford is referring to is an issue between the town and the department of the town, which is the fire department. No one, provincially, regulates how the fire department operates. It is a full volunteer fire department. Chief Rogers in New Glasgow certainly faces a different situation when he has paid persons present and there are laws that do kick in there. I just wanted to clarify that the protection is found under the Municipal Government Act.
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, on a point of clarification, this Clause 47 does offer that relief as well.
MR. CORMIER: It does but it is only for the activities done under the Fire Prevention Act.
MR. MACKINNON: Yes, provincial.
MR. CORMIER: That is correct.
MR. MACKINNON: And that is what we are speaking to.
MR. CORMIER: Yes, the matter that Chief Bedford was speaking to was emergency action which falls under the Municipal Government Act, the minute that the alarm goes off.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I think it is important that people understand that Bill No. 58, as I understand it, is before and after the fire, not the actual fighting of the fire.
MR. CORMIER: That is correct.
MRS. MURIEL BAILLIE: I just want to ask George, I know it is very dear to your heart about this not allowing people to drive on the back of the truck. Now I don't know who to ask. Is that a town issue or where do we go? Can you tell me? Is that a town issue, George?
MR. BEDFORD: Right in the extra legislation for the "Good Samaritan" Act, regardless of where it is now, right in the Fire Prevention Act, this is what I think you should do. You don't have to believe me, people say you are wrong. I will just come along to this. Do that. The town issue, yes, it is an issue within the town but I don't want to expand upon it to start getting into - you start to reach a level at which I don't operate, let me put it that way.
For instance, let me give you another story. We received this call 4:00 o'clock in the afternoon. There is a power pole down on Wellington. On Wellington there is a substation, 32,000 volts - not down, forgive me, burning. Okay, Gordon, myself - and hey, Steve is here, too, correct? - and I have Steve on the back of the truck. I am in the front seat, that's okay. We run to the fire and it is 32,000 volts coming in, I believe. That is a good number, anyway. We are there ahead of the police. We are there ahead of the ambulances. We are there ahead of anybody else.
Next council meeting, I get a letter condemning me for running, with one man aboard the truck, in a total emergency situation, where people could have been killed. The pole could have gone over. There are children up there and hey, I am condemned for that, for hurrying and doing the best I can and operating with the equipment, as I see fit. It isn't right but this is what hurts. I have to make it known and make it public so you boys can perhaps write in something to stop this hurt. How would you act in such a case? It turned out safely. The Power Corporation, we were half an hour on it before they got on the scene. The RCMP, they could be on patrol over at Mount William, which is two or three miles out, but the fire department are on patrol two or three minutes away and were keeping people away.
This is one of the things which I am facing and I am asking you people to put some legislation in to stop this. We do the best we can all the time and you have to have dedicated people, whatever. That's all, really, I have to say, unless you want to put the worst - forgive me, Muriel. When I get expounding, I get carried away.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Are there any other questions? Thank you very much.
Do I have any other presenters? If not, I will ask Jim DeWolfe, our colleague, to close out the meeting.
MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Chairman, I certainly want to thank members of the Pictou County Fire Service for attending tonight and representing your various fire departments. For the benefit of my colleagues here at the table, I want you to know that we are very proud of our firefighting services and those involved in it here in Pictou County.
I also want to thank our municipal leaders for attending - Mayor Cotter, thank you for coming - and I thank the general public and we have press here. It is certainly an important issue. I want to thank you, my colleagues of the Legislature, and the legislative staff for coming here and including Pictou County as one of your stopping points on this mission that we have set out on. I will encourage you to go back to your fire departments and if there are any submissions or questions or areas of concern, feel free to call my office or your own MLAs, if you are outside of my constituency, but my constituency is available to all of you as well. I will certainly ensure that those documents get to this committee. I would suggest you try to do that in the next couple of weeks, it would be wonderful.
So, again, thank you very much for coming and thank you, gentlemen and ladies.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you and good evening.
[The committee adjourned at 8:00 p.m.]