MR. CHAIRMAN: My name is Jon Carey. I am the MLA for Kings West and the Chairman of the select committee. We have most of our committee here tonight. I think there are two members unable to be with us, but perhaps Kerry, you could start with introductions and go around.
[The committee members introduced themselves.]
MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: I also bring regrets on behalf of my colleague, Mr. Russell MacKinnon, who is back in Cape Breton. He has been ill the last few days.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The other member of the committee is Frank Corbett, NDP caucus, and he is unable to be with us this evening.
We have at the present time six or seven people who have registered to present. If you wish to present something during the evening and you don't have a written agenda or anything for it, that really doesn't matter. It is an opportunity for you to voice your concerns about fire safety in this area and for the province. You have MLAs of all Parties here who are interested in listening to what you have to say, so that we can do some work on your behalf to come up with the best legislation we possibly can. I see Kevin has just arrived, so perhaps you would like to introduce yourself to the group.
MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Sorry I'm late. Kevin Deveaux, I am the MLA for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage and a member of the NDP caucus.
MR. CHAIRMAN: This is our ninth meeting in the province. The world situation and the loss of the 300 firefighters in New York, and certainly having been a firefighter, I realize the great loss, the risk firefighters are at, and the brotherhood and the camaraderie that is between all firefighters worldwide. I would ask that we would take a few moments in recognition of those people who gave their lives in service.
[One minute of silence was observed.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. Welcome to this meeting of 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're 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, other businesses, municipalities and the fire service. We are meeting in 10 communities across the province, and this is the ninth 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's important that we get it right. Once we've collected and reviewed all the submissions, we will make recommendations in a report to the House of Assembly.
Bill No. 58 sets up a framework for fire safety. It assigns responsibilities to individuals and organizations that work to prevent fires, people who fight fires, companies and individuals that own land, insurers, municipalities and provincial government officials, like the fire marshal. The bill also sets up an advisory council to advise the Minister of Environment and Labour on matters related to fire safety.
Bulleted details on Bill No. 58:
- it is written with the intention that it would replace completely the Fire Prevention Act that is now in effect in Nova Scotia
- 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
- helps the fire marshal determine what caused fires. This is important for the insurance and crime prevention reasons
- assigns roles to people who are responsible for preventing fires, for putting them out, for reporting fires and for investigating them, for 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
- 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
- discusses what regulations the government can write to further protect Nova Scotians from fire and to reduce the harm of fires
- establishes a Fire Safety Advisory Council to advise the Minister of Environment and Labour on matters of fire safety.
Those are the highlights. As I said, we are here to gather all the information we can, and we welcome your input. The first presenter this evening is Russ Mackintosh. If the presenters would come to one of the microphones in the front, Hansard will record. They could introduce themselves and the organization that they represent.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, SR.: Good evening, Mr. Chairman, members of the select committee, ladies and gentlemen, fellow firefighters. My name is Russ Mackintosh, and I am the Chief of the Annapolis Royal Volunteer Fire Department. The Fire Prevention Act is long overdue. If you get nothing else from me, the Act is long overdue and it is needed.
We started, quite a few years ago, to draft this new Act. We, the fire service, had members on the Fire Prevention Advisory Committee. Fire Chief Ken Kelly of Yarmouth was the chairman, and he was also the President of the Fire Officers Association of Nova Scotia. We also had other members serving with Chief Kelly on the advisory council, plus we had people from the fire service on the external group. Our fire marshal and a couple of his deputy fire marshals served on the Fire Marshal's Committee.
After the draft was put together, it came to each chief and department for input. After going over the draft, we returned it along with drafts from the fire associations across the province. Once this was finished it went to government. The fire service has been waiting for this Act ever since, and we wonder why. It is needed, very much needed. It went to the government, but it never made it to the House.
Now, and I mean no disrespect to you, sir, Mr. Chairman or any member on your committee, but here we are again with this Act, going across Nova Scotia with government spending approximately $80,000 to $90,000, I would take it, for this committee to travel. I could use that money, probably better than you could. I am sure there are some other chiefs sitting in this room who would say the same thing.
This afternoon I had a truck go down. It is going to cost me quite a bit of money to bring that truck back into service. Time is passing and the fire service would like to see this bill move forward. The bill has to work for us, along with the Municipal Government Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act or guidelines for volunteer firefighters. One item that must be addressed is who is going to give the fire service the money it is going to require to train its people or to buy the proper equipment.
Hopefully the federal/provincial/municipal governments will understand that they are going to have to fund this and most everything else the volunteers do. Most of our members have full-time jobs, plus they have families. The fire departments are finding it very hard to encourage our members to find time to help with fundraising. In my department it has dropped 50 per cent. We find it hard to keep the interest up for training. Not that we want any big fires but once there is a big fire, after that we are gung ho for quite a while; once that goes, down she goes again.
When we have a man who goes to the school for Level I training, and to do it on weekends it means he has to give up 8 or 10 weekends, away from his family, or he can start with the weekend, stay a week and finish up with a weekend at the end. Again, he is away from his family and his job. That costs us. To send a man to the fire school from Annapolis Royal Fire Department is costing us anywhere between $1,500 to $2,000 per man, and we can't keep this up. When we fundraise, if we hold dances or if we hold weddings or anything else at our hall, we get hit by other people, such as SOCAN, looking for money from us that we have to pay. The federal government and the provincial government have to get these people off our backs. We can't keep it up. In fact, a lot of us have never paid a cent to it yet, and we are waiting for a lawsuit to come flying through the door. I, for one.
Let me ask you, sir, what will ever happen in Nova Scotia if we have a terrorist attack, if they hit Greenwood, Halifax or Point Lepreau? God help us, because my department is not ready. I don't think there are very many departments that are ready with the training to handle such an attack. This could happen and the fire service should be ready, trained and have the equipment to do the job.
The Nova Scotia Government, municipal governments and the people of Nova Scotia have had the best of the fire service for the last 50 to 100 years. I would pit our fire service against any, but we can't keep it up because times are changing and people are changing. The firefighters of the day have a lot of different things to do, not like myself when I came in 30-some odd years ago. I feel I sacrificed my family for the fire service. They won't do that today. I am sure the people of Nova Scotia, if they knew, would only be too willing to help out the fire service. Times are changing, and I thank you for listening to me.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Russ, is it your understanding that there is a part of the bill that requires more training and specific equipment?
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, SR.: I only read the bill the other day. I just got a copy of it the other day. I was reading it, and I feel that for me to do some of the things stated in here, I am going to have to get myself better trained, so are my men, and it doesn't matter if it is money or time, it is still a cost to me and my department, that we have to give up, to follow this. Yes, I think it is.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We have the fire marshal with us this evening. Bob Cormier, would you clarify the position on that, please.
MR. ROBERT CORMIER: There is a training element to it, on the duties of the local assistant and the investigation of fires. Russ is right, the cost is not there. We provide that service at a very low cost, and we do bill for it and most times it is provided without charge, but there is a time element required for that. The fire investigator is approximately a three-week program. Even though only one member of a local fire department would need the very highest level of training, it is still time. He is correct there. Costs are kept to a minimum, because we provide that as a service.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Am I correct in saying that the volunteer fire departments in the province, even though it is desirable and recommended, are not going to lose anyone or are not required to have Level I certification before they can fight fires?
MR. CORMIER: The only person who can establish policies on the fire department, according to the Municipal Government Act, are the municipalities.
MR. CHAIRMAN: So, therefore, this Act would not . . .
MR. CORMIER: This Act does not. What this Act does provide for is a means of developing guidelines for fire departments and municipalities to follow. I might just add one other point that was brought up, and that is the terrorism question. The provincial government is beginning meetings with department heads, starting next week, on an urban terrorism analysis that was started by the federal government. This occurred over a long period of time, this is not the result of September 11th. Part of that is the need to establish
training and equipment throughout the better part of Canada for answering the issues of terrorism in the country.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Steele.
MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Thank you very much for coming out tonight. I know you have come quite a long way from Annapolis Royal. This is another sign of the depth of your commitment to the fire service. You mentioned, I think you said, your fundraising is down 50 per cent this year. Is that just this year, or is that a trend?
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, SR.: No, it started about two or three years ago. We have seen it dropping off and dropping off, and it is steadily dropping now.
MR. STEELE: Why do you think that is?
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, SR.: I think the fellows are getting burned out, the older ones, and the younger ones are a different breed. They are all needed, they are all good men, but they just don't want to put in the time away from their families. I can't blame them for that.
MR. STEELE: Are you also having trouble getting volunteers?
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, SR.: We were. We have managed in the last little while to pick up three firefighters, who happen to be women and are very good. We are back up to 38 members now.
MR. STEELE: You have identified one of the major reasons for having difficulty with volunteers is that people are not quite so willing to put everything ahead of their family commitments. Are there any other reasons that you are aware of?
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, SR.: Well, I would say, on an average, that it costs my men anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500 a year to be a volunteer, if you look at their vehicles, the wear and tear, their clothing, and whatever else. They say, hey, we can't keep this up. I know the town that I am from is hard pressed, and so is the municipality, but someone has to give a hand, whether it comes from the provincial or the federal government, I don't know where, but it has to come.
MR. STEELE: Thank you very much.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Deveaux.
MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Chairman, I just want to say it is like old home week at the Department of Labour seeing the two of you there at the table. My questions, Russ, were around a couple of things, following up on Graham's questions about volunteers. You have hands-on experience with attracting, trying to get people to volunteer. I know there was some discussion of a $500 tax credit, I believe, originally to sort of encourage volunteers for the fire department. First of all, has that actually gone through?
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, SR.: No, and I don't think it would do any good anyway.
MR. DEVEAUX: And why is that?
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, SR.: I don't think $500 would be the way to attract them. I think if you could give them the courses free. When I send a man away from my department, I have to pay babysitter fees for some of them, for a weekend, I have to pay the mileage, I have to pay the price of the course, there are meals and anything else, he bills the fire department. We look at it and we say yes. We have men in our department, both they and their wives are working and have kids, so we have to pay to have someone look after their kids for them or they don't go, they don't get trained.
MR. DEVEAUX: Is there anything beyond, I guess my only thought is a tax credit, at least, at the end of the year when they file their taxes, there is $500 more for them there, potentially, to at least help them, encourage them to want to get involved. Are you saying that it should be higher, or that just won't work?
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, SR.: If you are going to do it, then it should be higher.
MR. DEVEAUX: I have another question, but I think Bob wanted to comment.
MR. CORMIER: Mr. Chairman, if I could just address that. The committee that was struck by, at that time, the Department of Labour to look at assistance to volunteer fire departments, both in attracting them as well as retaining them, and took a look at a number of different choices. Of course, we did come up with the free registration for all volunteer firefighters, as well as our search and rescue people.
We looked at the aspect of the tax break. What it basically broke down to was, first of all, you have to be earning an adequate income in order to get the break in the first place. This is not a slight against our rural communities but, basically, our rural communities, the backbone of those, are rural firefighters who are not earning over $30,000 a year.
The best advantage to that would go to the urban fire departments who are receiving high tax bases and some of them are earning as high as $4,000 and $5,000 a year in honorariums. The disadvantage is, we are not rewarding those who need the reward the most. So I agree with the concept, but it is just not going in the right pockets.
MR. DEVEAUX: So the government has now decided that they are not going to go with the tax credit at all.
MR. CORMIER: I have not heard a no on it but that was the results of our study.
MR. DEVEAUX: One last question, I guess, for Russ. From my walking the halls of the Department of Labour, I remember the Fire Safety Act as something that has been discussed for years. Bob, you know that, as well. But, Russ, you made some comments at the beginning around the issue of the fact that six or seven years ago, you went through a similar process. From your experience in government, I am just going to ask you for your opinion as to why you think we are back at this and why this wasn't resolved in the last six or seven years?
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, SR.: When I first went to the House, they dragged their feet. They dragged and dragged and then it stopped being dragged, if you want to put it that way. It never went anywhere. I think it got through the first reading. I don't know if it ever got through the second. All of a sudden, we hear, hey, there's an election coming. Whoosh! There she goes again.
MR. DEVEAUX: But, generally, when legislation has trouble getting through the House, it's because there is someone on the other side who is arguing that they are not happy with it or that they think things should change. Is there any sense of that from your . . .
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, SR.: I don't think you would have ever found anyone in the fire service arguing with that. We need this Act. The old Act doesn't protect us. With this Act, and I don't agree with everything that is written in there - you know, don't get me wrong - but what is there, I need. I don't care who does the investigations of buildings, but by God, send someone out there to start investigating buildings. Whether it be the gentleman over here on my left or his men, or it be the building inspectors or the fire inspectors, or who it is, send someone out so that when I get there with a crew of men, if the building is on fire, and say, hey, we're going in, I'm relatively sure that this building has been checked at least a year ago.
I did a check on a building in Annapolis Royal about six months ago and it has cost me. I wrote them up and said, I won't send this to the fire marshal, I will just keep this between me and you, clean the place up. Then a couple of weeks later, I had to go back and ask him for a hand-out. No hand-out. Every year they used to give me a hand-out. But
because I wrote him up, I said here, fix this and clean it, it cost. I would never do it again in my town. I have to live there.
There are buildings in my town that must be and should be inspected, the same as in my area. I am sure they are, right from New Minas, right straight down to Yarmouth. Now, I don't know what Bob's thought on it is but I am sure that if the Fire Marshal's Office started inspecting all these buildings, they would need an army, so you had better be prepared to hire an army.
MR. DEVEAUX: Thank you. Those are all my questions.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Kerry.
MR. KERRY MORASH: Just a question to you with regard to the bill that is before us. Is there anything in there that will help you with regard to attracting volunteers in the future? I know what all the problems are and they seem to be throughout the province, but is there anything in there that will be of benefit to you if this bill is passed?
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, SR.: Yeah. I think, once they find out that the government is serious about some of this stuff that they are doing, they will follow this.
One of the biggest things you have got to do with this Act is train the lawyers and the judges. Because if you are going to put the teeth in this thing and make it work, then they have got to be part of the scenario.
MR. MORASH: Bob, do you have any comments on that?
MR. CORMIER: I am going to make a comment. At the present time, we have 314 fire departments in this province of which 100 I would classify as small volunteer. That is, 20 members or less, many of whom have inadequate equipment, inadequate training and inadequate ability to address the problems that they are supposed to be responsible for.
Our biggest problem with recruitment is the attraction of our young people out of the community to the metro regions. Our rural communities are becoming older every day and - if one out of every five people between the ages of 20 and 40 in a community belonged to a volunteer department, as that number decreases, we also decrease the number of people for that volunteer department. That is one of the big dilemmas we are faced with in this province.
Fire departments will be facing new questions they are going to have to answer. One of those is going to be, do we maintain individualized departments in every community or do we begin to band some of our departments together, to try to reinforce their ability to respond to emergencies? In other words, maybe we have 100 departments cut down to 25, in order
to maintain their ability to respond, because we cannot attract people to our rural regions at the age where they are going to service the fire departments.
MR. MORASH: If I might comment on that, I am just trying to think, in my own situation, we have some small fire departments that are relatively close together but from anything I have heard from them, if you try to amalgamate them, you would lose, probably, all the volunteers that we currently have.
MR. CORMIER: I would agree to that. The strength of the volunteer department is that ability to serve your community. But a community is put at risk when you no longer can do that and we are seeing that happen in various communities now.
MR. MORASH: You mentioned about inadequate equipment. I don't want to put words in your mouth but, fire trucks, that type of thing?
MR. CORMIER: I'm going everything from fire trucks right on through to breathing apparatus. I had a call from a fire department where one of the paid firefighters from Halifax had gone in to try to assist them and he was calling to find out where he could get a breathing apparatus because the four sets that they have, they should not be going into a building with.
MR. MORASH: What standards now are we measuring those against as far as inadequate?
MR. CORMIER: There is an FPA standard 1500 which addresses all of the equipment. There are age problems with some of this equipment. It has been around for a period of time. We have fire vehicles out there that have been through the used car lots so many times that their serial numbers are almost wore out.
MR. MORASH: Maybe I will ask a better question. Are we in violation of the current Acts and standards now with the equipment that is out there?
MR. CORMIER: No. That is the discouragement lots of times in trying to assist people. There is nothing in the Act that, first of all, says you have to have a fire department. When you do decide to have a fire department, you use the equipment, the training and the office or program that you have to do the work that you can do. That does not mean, necessarily, interior fire attack.
When it was decided that we could no longer support a fire department on Tancook Island, and the fastest you can get a fire truck there is by ferry, you know that you cannot. So what we had to do was increase the fire education training on the island to try to decrease the opportunity. That ranges down to the fire department that may not be able to do any more than exterior fire attack. That is, protect the buildings from igniting buildings in the immediate area.
MR. MORASH: If I might, one last question. So this new Act will maintain the current level or the current standards with regard to training, it will be set by the municipality?
MR. CORMIER: Yes. The municipality is totally responsible for fire suppression.
MR. MORASH: I am just trying to clarify, if we put in the new Act, will we get some of this inadequate equipment that you are talking about, off the. . .
MR. CORMIER: No. All we can do from the province is provide the information for the municipalities and the fire departments to base their decisions on, but they need that support to be able to do that.
MR. MORASH: Thank you very much for clearing that up. That helps.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, SR.: You mentioned about fire departments going by the way side. They are already talking about that down my way. They are talking about amalgamating. They are talking about, maybe we will have to fold.
As Bob said, the firefighters in these departments are older fellows. They have been here 30, 35, 40 years. They are just saying, hey, we can't keep this up. We need younger men, but they can't attract them, or younger women, they can't attract them. So they are now discussing, maybe we should join together. I would be surprised to see it come but unless the community says, hey, we need better fire protection, then pride will hold those guys apart, pride for their own department.
Yes, we do have old trucks out there. I know one department, that is very proud of the truck they just bought. It is a '73. I have sold every '73 I've ever had and they are just proud as old peacocks. They have their first pumper. It's there, it's shined up, it's beautiful and it works but it is a '73.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Russ, would you like to put on your other hat and make your next presentation or would you like a break?
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, SR.: I think I will take a break.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay, thank you.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, SR.: Thank you very much.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Our next presenter is Fred Fox.
MR. FRED FOX: Mr. Chairman, committee members, fellow firefighters, ladies and gentlemen, good evening. My name is Fred Fox. I have been a firefighter with the Windsor
Fire Department for over 30 years. I have been a member of our executive, as well as a fire ground officer for the past 20 years, serving in the positions of Lieutenant, Captain, Deputy Chief and for the past 13 years, have held the position of Chief of the Department.
I have been asked by my fellow Hants County Fire Chiefs to address your committee. I would like, if I may, to just take a moment and ask the Chiefs if they would - and they are here - just stand so the committee could see who they are. From Hantsport Fire Department we have Chief Phillip Scott; from Brooklyn Fire Department, Chief Mike Webb; from Somerville Fire Department, Chief Philip Smith; from Walton Fire Department, Chief Marty Ross.
Together, our five fire departments, comprising some 200 volunteer firefighters, serve and protect some 20,000 citizens and their properties within the entire County of the District of West Hants, as well as the Towns of Hantsport and Windsor.
It has been over five years since I received, as both a volunteer Fire Chief and a career building contractor, an invitation from our Fire Marshal, Robert Cormier, to sit on a committee that was to become known as External Stakeholders. I was honoured to have been asked to carry out this task.
Our committee consisted of a very diverse representation from many organizations within our province who might have an interest in fire safety-related issues addressed in provincial Acts and regulations. Our mandate was to study and review our current Fire Protection Act and to recommend any necessary changes that we felt should be incorporated into a new Act that was being prepared. This new Act was to become known as the Fire Safety Act and, more recently, Bill No. 58.
It would seem that even after an extensive consultation process that resulted in the final draft of the new Fire Safety Act, great efforts were again made to give all Nova Scotians an opportunity to express their views on this very important proposed new Act. Despite all of this effort being put forth over a period of several years, the bill could not seem to make its way through the legislative process required to pass it into a provincial Act. Now we have your select committee reviewing this document, once again.
We would like to state that we fully endorse Bill No. 58 in its present form. I have read the Hansard from your September 6, 2001 meeting, in which our fire marshal and the President of the Fire Officers Association of Nova Scotia, addressed you. We feel that Mr. Cormier and Mr. Clark have accurately reflected the feelings of the Nova Scotia fire services with respect to this matter. There is no doubt that this process has taken far too long and that the citizens and firefighters of this province are being unduly endangered because of said delays.
Perhaps the most important issue affecting us is the fact that some municipal governments do not seem to feel the need to follow the regulations of the current Fire Prevention Act. Of particular concern to us is the longstanding lack of a regular system of fire inspection services that is mandated in the current Fire Prevention Act, as well as in the proposed Bill No. 58. There has been a definite reluctance by some municipal units to recognize their responsibilities for many years, but now it seems that because there is a new Fire Safety Act being proposed, some of these units feel they do not have to abide by our current Act.
Pursuant to a recommendation by the Honourable David Morse, Minister of Environment and Labour, in a letter dated February 5, 2001, addressed to Windsor Fire Department Treasurer, Graham Murphy, our five fire departments have been attempting to work with our three respective municipal units, to initiate a shared fire inspection program. It seems, however, that some members of our provincial Legislature may be hindering our efforts by sending mixed messages to our municipal units. One of the municipal units that we serve has interpreted the Honourable David Morses' May 3, 2001 letter to Anna Allen, President of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, as an endorsement to do nothing in this regard.
It would also appear to us that Bill No. 58 is being perceived by some municipal units as an exercise in provincial to municipal downloading. We believe that this is clearly not the case, as there are, in fact, less municipal responsibilities in the proposed new Act. We believe the problem lies in the fact that some municipal units have not been carrying out their existing legislated responsibilities by providing inspection services. On the other hand, many municipal units in Nova Scotia have been providing the service to their citizens and to their firefighters. Others, including two of the three units that we serve, have now budgeted to commence a new fire inspection program. We commend and thank these units for their proactive approach to fire protection.
For those of us who volunteer our time to provide fire protection services to the citizens of this province, the past four or five years have been an extremely frustrating time. We are clearly caught in the middle of a situation that has dragged on far too long. On one hand, we have municipal councils who are in denial of their legislated responsibilities, while they await the passing of Bill No. 58. On the other hand, we have our provincial government who, for no good reason known to us, have refused to legislate the proposed Fire Safety Act that was written with input from all major internal and external stakeholders in our province, and of which, is fully endorsed by the fire marshal and the fire services of Nova Scotia.
We, as the fire chiefs, are appointed as local assistants to the fire marshal, which gives us the legal responsibility and the authority to take charge of many fire safety-related matters. However, in some cases, we lack the local support that we require. We, as front-line firefighters, continue to see first-hand the problems created when there is no regular system of fire inspections within our municipal units. We are the ones that receive the phone calls
from the employers and the employees, asking for our assistance in making the workplaces fire-safe environments. We are the ones who see first-hand the unnecessary death and destruction that is caused by a society who chooses to ignore basic fire safety issues. We walk into schools and places of public assembly and find fire doors chained and locked. We risk our firefighters' lives attempting to rescue citizens who could not escape the fire in their dwellings because they have either non-existing or non-operable smoke alarms.
We recently arrived at a fire call in a first floor apartment in a three-storey, four-unit apartment building. When we entered the apartment upstairs that occupied the second and third floor, we found a family had been living there for some number of months without electricity. A Coleman was being used in the kitchen, kerosene lanterns and candles were supplying the light. Children were sleeping on the third floor without the aid of smoke alarms, fire separations or a fire escape. We have no idea how much of this is occurring without a regular system of fire inspections.
Have you ever seen a mother drop her infant child from a second floor window to awaiting arms of a firefighter, only to see her have to turn around and make her way back through the smoke because the windows in her apartment do not meet the egress requirements that would have allowed her enough room to also fit through the window?
We constantly receive calls from citizens who have no one else to turn to. Recently, I received a call from a young mother who was sleeping in a bedroom with no window and who had fumes entering another room because a furnace vent was improperly installed. This lady was afraid to confront her landlord for fear of being without a place for her and her child to live.
I could go on indefinitely about the frustrations we feel with respect to the lack of fire inspection services in our areas but, hopefully, I have been able to give you some insight into our dilemma. We have seen all of this and much more. I am here to tell you that it breaks your heart. To have your local municipal government refuse to give you the support that would allow you to address these problems simply breaks your spirit.
As I conclude our presentation to you this evening, I would hereby request that your committee recognize and honour the wishes of the fire services of our province by having Bill No. 58 passed through the 2001 fall session of the Nova Scotia Legislature.
We would further request that your government immediately state very clearly that the requirements, as outlined in our current Fire Prevention Act, are to be fulfilled by municipal units throughout this province.
I thank you for your time, patience and attention in allowing me to voice our concerns. I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have. Respectfully submitted, Fred Fox. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Fred. Kevin?
MR. DEVEAUX: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, Chief Fox. I appreciate your taking the time to put in writing some very important concerns.
I am going to ask you the same question I asked Chief Mackintosh with regard to your experiences. Obviously in different words, you are saying the same thing, I think, that over the last five, six, seven years there has been a lot of discussion about a Fire Safety Act and, yet, we still don't have one passed.
I think, reading between the lines, I know the answer to this but I am going to ask you. Are there some people out there who have a desire to not see this bill passed because it may cause them more problems or may cause them more fiscal problems than they now have to deal with?
MR. FOX: To answer that question, I would have to speculate that if that is the case, those people are not currently abiding by the legislation that we do now have because there, essentially, is not a lot in this new proposed Act that is going to cost anybody any more money. As a matter of fact, there is less with respect to fire inspection services, that would be burdened with the municipal units and what we currently have in our Fire Prevention Act.
The problem now we have is that some seem to feel that because there is a new proposed Act, that we all ignore our existing one. In some respects, perhaps we would have been better off if we had not tried to write a new one. At least we would have the old one or existing one that somebody would recognize.
MR. DEVEAUX: Let me ask this and excuse my ignorance. The current Fire Prevention Act, does it adopt a version of the National Fire Code?
MR. FOX: The current Fire Prevention Act?
MR. DEVEAUX: Yes.
MR. FOX: Again, perhaps the fire marshal may want to answer some of these questions - but, generally, it is a municipal responsibility, which Acts are adopted.
MR. DEVEAUX: So each municipality decides whether the National Fire Code is one that they are going to adopt or which parts of it?
MR. FOX: I would rather the fire marshal answer that.
MR. DEVEAUX: I want to touch base on a couple of other things that you noted, around the letter from Minister Morse. I am just trying to clarify what you were meaning by how some of the municipalities have interpreted his letter. I wasn't very clear, in your writing, what that meant.
MR. FOX: I do have a copy of his letter. I also have a copy with me this evening of a letter that we received from one of our municipal units that we serve which basically says that they will not take any action, based on the letter that Minister Morse had written which, in their opinion, was telling them not to worry about it for now. I don't read it that way, personally, and I am sure many others do not but that was their interpretation of Minister Morse's letter.
MR. DEVEAUX: The municipality interpreted that you don't have to worry about enforcing the current Act? That is how they interpreted it?
MR. FOX: They were not taking any action on fire inspection services until this committee had acted and relied something of that wording. Again, I don't have it in front of me but I do have a copy of it if the committee so desires.
MR. DEVEAUX: Well, that is something I would like to see. I don't know if you have copies for everyone but if that could be tabled, that would be appreciated, I think.
MR. FOX: Certainly.
MR. DEVEAUX: Thank you. Those are all my questions. Thank you, Chief.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Steele.
MR. STEELE: I don't have a question, sir, so much as, I just want to make sure that I am clear on something you said. One of the groups that, broadly speaking, has come before the committee, not opposed to legislation but with some concerns about it, are the municipalities. One of their major concerns that we hear at other meetings is that it is going to impose new costs on them that they are not sure that they can afford, if this legislation is passed.
Am I understanding you correctly that it is your view that if municipalities were properly meeting their obligations under the existing legislation, they would have nothing to fear from the new legislation, in terms of cost? Is that a fair summary of your view on that?
MR. FOX: That is Fred Fox's opinion, yes.
MR. STEELE: Thanks. I just wanted to make sure that I understood that problem. That is my only comment.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. Kerry.
MR. MORASH: I have a few, I think, that go along with the discussions we have had so far. In your presentation, on Page 2, you have got a line in here. I will just read it so nobody has to look it up. "There is no doubt that this process has taken far too long and that the citizens and firefighters of this province are being unduly endangered because of said delays." Would you mind elaborating? I think you did cover it later on but would you mind just elaborating on that a bit, of how we are being endangered by not having this Act in place now?
MR. FOX: Certainly. Probably the most important issue to our area of the province is the lack of a regular system of fire inspections. We somehow feel that the reluctance by some municipal units to recognize the current Fire Prevention Act is, perhaps, because they feel it is in limbo somehow or that a new Act is, perhaps, going to be amended, or something is going to happen that they are not going to have this responsibility.
The responsibility is very clear in the current Fire Prevention Act. As a matter of fact, there are more requirements in it for municipal units, in our opinion, than even the new proposed Fire Safety Act.
MR. MORASH: I defer to the lawyers in our midst with regard to the current Act being enforceable now. My next question would be, who is responsible for enforcement of our current Act, that one that is in place right now?
MR. FOX: It is a provincial Act so I would anticipate that it would be the provincial government. However, the responsibilities are very clearly defined as to who or what, and the ones we are talking about are municipal responsibilities.
MR. MORASH: Who holds the municipalities accountable under the Act? Maybe that is something Mr. Cormier may be able to answer. I'm trying to just get some clarification.
MR. CORMIER: Through you, Mr. Chairman, the interpretation, since 1976, has been literal from the language of the Act. The Act says that the municipality may, in addition to the fire chief, hire or have a municipal employee for carrying out the fire inspections.
It has been a frustrating attempt in a number of meetings we have held with councils in an attempt to try to get them to abide by this. We have been successful in a number of areas, including your own, in accomplishing that but there has been the belief that as provided that the fire chiefs are still listed as part of the inspection process, that the municipality is not solely responsible for it. It was not clear.
This is what we did under the new Act. We made it very clear that the municipality is solely responsible for a system of inspections and they may appoint the local fire department
to carry out those inspections as they do in Halifax. But the municipality must make the action. Under the old Act, there was some question of clarification on it.
MR. MORASH: Yes, okay. Currently, we have said, though, under the existing Act, there is legislation which requires fire inspections, period.
MR. CORMIER: That is correct.
MR. MORASH: But that hasn't been enforced and I guess that would get to my third question. Unfortunately, that is, why would we think that if we bring a new Act in, that the new Act will be enforced any more than the existing Act?
MR. CORMIER: I guess when I took the position in 1993 - and we tried to do it on a voluntary basis and then tried to take a look at whether we could enact or force that - there was some question as to whether we could do it or not because of past history between 1976 and that period of time. This was one of the reasons for the clarification of language. It is very clear now. It is a municipal responsibility.
Basically, what the comment has been during the previous years, is that the municipality wears the liability if anything should happen, but I don't feel I can gamble any more, waiting to see if something is going to happen and somebody is going to get sued.
MR. MORASH: If I could just wrap up, just sort of a point of clarification, maybe, for anyone here. I was involved with the enforcement of the Occupational Health and Safety Act in my previous life. I certainly understand how important that was and there were rules there that had to be followed, whether you liked to follow them or not.
As I have travelled around with this committee - and I volunteered to be on the committee because I wanted to learn more about the workings of this Act and try to make sure it is as good as it possibly can be - I am very concerned and disappointed that we have something in the province currently with regards to public safety and fire, that we don't seem to have a handle on the enforcement aspect of it. Again, that was for the last question there. I don't see a process in place to ensure that we have enforcement if a new Act comes in. That concerns me, again.
MR. CORMIER: Well, what we did put in there this time that we didn't have before is, where a municipality does not carry out the inspections, the fire marshal will carry out those inspections and bill the municipality for it. So that is about as big a hammer as I can carry.
MR. MORASH: But right now we say that a municipality must . . .
MR. CORMIER: All we do is say, must, and there is no recourse if they don't.
MR. MORASH: And from a lawyer's point of view, must is quite clear, I understand, isn't it, legally? Anyway, with that, I guess I am finished. (Laughter)
MR. CHAIRMAN: Kevin.
MR. DEVEAUX: Well, I am assuming, Fire Marshal Cormier, you are talking about Section 19 of the Act, I think?
MR. CORMIER: That's correct.
MR. DEVEAUX: I have just been reading it and it says, "It shall be the duty of . . . every city, town and municipality to provide for a regular system of inspection . . .", which sounds pretty clear to me, that it is a duty on the part of municipalities now to have to provide it. But you are saying, you, yourself, as fire marshal, don't have the teeth - if they don't do it, to do anything about it?
MR. CORMIER: I guess the crux of it would be, the only thing in the Act would be that if I ordered them to do so, then I would have to take them to court under the charges which is $1,000 a day, and so on and so on.
MR. DEVEAUX: It is a very drastic measure against the municipality. I understand.
MR. CORMIER: That's right. That is basically the process. At this stage, it is like starting over again. We have had a bad situation and we are trying to rectify it. Again, it is little good for us to basically have a - what shall I call it - confrontation with the municipalities when we are trying to build a co-operative effort.
MR. DEVEAUX: My other question on this is, were there members representing municipalities, or the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities on the External Stakeholders Committee?
MR. CORMIER: Anna Allen sat on all of the committees, as did Gerald, from Victoria County.
MR. DEVEAUX: Sampson?
MR. CORMIER: Gerald Sampson and a couple of other councillors. I believe, in total, I had four meetings with the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities to outline it. We have twice sent out letters, stating that the one-year announcement for the cost increase to the municipalities - even though it was a cost increase, we did it anyway.
MR. DEVEAUX: So have they always signed off as, the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities endorsed Bill No. 58? Did the members on the External Stakeholders Committee endorse it?
MR. CORMIER: It was endorsed that it was acceptable. That does not mean, as with every committee that has members on it, that the groups that those members represent necessarily buy in. (Laughter)
MR. DEVEAUX: Okay, thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much.
MR. FOX: Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Our next presenter is Bill Butler.
MR. BILL BUTLER: Good evening, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, firefighters, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Bill Butler and I am the Director of the Department of Community Development Services with the Municipality of the County of Kings. I think, coincidence or not, I guess, the issue that I am here to discuss is similar to the previous speaker's.
Similar to the previous two speakers, we would also, I guess, encourage the adoption of this Act. It has been under consideration for a number of years and we are not sure why it hasn't been approved but I guess we would simply offer our support for its expeditious adoption.
For most municipalities, one of the most significant issues related to the new legislation will be the requirement to provide fire inspection service. Although the current legislation requires municipalities to carry out this function, the reality is that fire inspection service within most municipalities has been carried out by the provincial Fire Marshal's Office at no cost to these municipal units.
It has, however, been made clear that with the adoption of a new Act, municipalities will be required - and I underlined required in my written submission - to provide the inspection service according to clearly defined standards which will be set out in the Act and/or regulations.
In our municipality, when it became clear that the new legislation would, in fact, require municipalities to provide a fire inspection service, we initiated a process to determine how that service might best be provided. Our basic intent in the exercise we undertook was to assess the pros and cons of providing the service on either an in-house basis - that is, hiring somebody ourselves as a municipal employee to provide the service, or alternatively to contract the service to some external agency or person.
I should also indicate that in addition to our own municipal process, I was also involved with the Valley Region Chapter of the Provincial Association of Municipal Administrators, who represent all municipal units from West Hants to the Annapolis Valley. The municipalities in this region were obviously very interested in the issue of inspection and, collectively, were looking at alternatives as to how they would provide the service.
A little aside, I think it is well accepted that municipalities will, when this Act is adopted, have to pay for the inspection service. So I guess, certainly, in our view, all municipalities in the Valley Region fully anticipate that they are going to have to pay for and provide the inspection service. The question is, how are we going to do that?
I should indicate that no final recommendation has been made, either to our council, and in the case of the Municipality of Kings, or the other councils up and down the Valley Region.
Under both the processes within our municipality, as well as undertaken by the Valley Region of the Municipal Administrators, the option of contracting with the Fire Marshal's Office to provide the service was identified as a very viable and popular option. Such a solution would offer several advantages; including, with minimized transitional issues, it would recognize the expertise and capability of the Fire Marshal's Office to provide a high quality of service delivery, it would alleviate the need for municipalities to directly provide a service for which few have the ability to provide at the level of quality which sets the protection service demands.
Initial discussions with the fire marshal indicated a willingness to consider this approach. More recent discussions, however, suggest that there may be some reassessment of this position at the provincial level. There seems to be some suggestion that the Fire Marshal's Office would be unwilling to provide the inspection service for municipalities on a fee-for-service basis.
I should indicate here that if I misread the tea leaves on that, I certainly apologize to Mr. Cormier, but on the possibility that that hesitation is there, we felt we wanted to make this submission to your committee.
We would, therefore, strongly urge the Select Committee on Fire Safety to ensure that the possibility of having the Fire Marshal's Office contract with municipalities to provide fire inspection service is maintained. Whether or not this is clearly spelled out in the legislation or is provided for in some other fashion - for example, a Memorandum of Understanding with the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities - we would leave with your committee to determine.
We are not suggesting that it should be mandatory to use the Fire Marshal's Office to provide fire inspection services since there may well be municipalities which will want to utilize other service delivery alternatives. We simply urge that this option be maintained as an available one to those municipalities that might be interested in taking advantage of it. Respectfully submitted. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Brian.
MR. BOUDREAU: First of all, Mr. Butler, I want to congratulate you for your presentation. It was very well said. I just want to ask you if the UNSM communicated with your municipality, during the debate in the committee meetings, with regard to this bill?
MR. BUTLER: Not that I am aware, sir. I think the meetings that we had, it was well accepted by our Valley Region members that, with the adoption of this Act, as municipal governments, we were going to have to provide the fire service. I think that was accepted as a given and our exercise was, okay, if that is the given, how are we going to do it? What alternatives do we have?
I mean, some of the smaller ones, in particular - as administrators, I guess, our jobs are to look at the costs and efficiencies so we were looking at options. Was there some option to do this collectively or how are we going to do it? That is where the fire marshal, as an option, was identified as one that several municipalities were, certainly, keenly interested in.
MR. BOUDREAU: Does your municipality have a representative on the UNSM?
MR. BUTLER: Yes, there is a regional representative.
MR. BOUDREAU: From the Valley?
MR. BUTLER: Yes.
MR. BOUDREAU: I am wondering if your municipality analyzed the old Act, the Act of 1976?
MR. BUTLER: In what sense?
MR. BOUDREAU: In regard to the responsibilities that the municipalities are
supposed to be doing?
MR. BUTLER: Again, I won't argue with the fact that the current Act is quite clear, that it does set it out as a municipal responsibility to carry out an inspection service. I can certainly speak for the municipality I work in, as well as the ones I am aware of. I don't want to put them on the spot but very few municipalities in this province, I think it would be a minority, certainly, provide a system of regular inspections. So that is certainly in line with what Chief Fox was saying.
MR. BOUDREAU: But would you agree that the old Act is not really clear on who is responsible for paying for the service?
MR. BUTLER: I think the wording is very similar between the two Acts; it's that the municipalities are responsible. I think one of the major improvements that will be included in the new legislation is that there will be a very definite delineation of who is responsible for what buildings. I think that will go a long way to very clearly establishing what is the municipal responsibility versus what is the provincial one. That will be a major plus.
MR. BOUDREAU: Just one more question, Mr. Chairman, if I may. Does your municipality regard this as a downloading onto your municipality?
MR. BUTLER: Our council is aware of it and, certainly, I have not heard a lot of debate from that point of view. I think the municipality, my council, has accepted that as a fact. We have been very clear that this is really not a change between the old and the new. It is really one where the province has clearly said, we are going to enforce - we are going to require municipalities to do it. My council has, I think, accepted that as a given and has said, okay, fine. We have to now pay for it and provide it. Let's make sure we do it in the best manner possible.
MR. BOUDREAU: Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Kerry.
MR. MORASH: I have a question. My understanding of Bill No. 58 is that the municipality will hire or determine who the fire inspector will be and ensure that a record of inspections is kept. I am just wondering if there has been any discussion with your group with regard to insurers. Some of your larger employers around, I expect, have fire safety people who come around and do insurance inspections on a regular basis. I was wondering if you
have considered or would consider that being an inspection for that building or if you would need to have your fire inspector go in after that person was there, just to check on his work?
MR. BUTLER: I don't think we have really gotten down to that level of discussion. There certainly was a question of the fire marshal, that if we did hire our own person, just getting the records in the Fire Marshal's Office concerning the history of fire inspections that had been done would certainly be necessary. I don't think we assumed that we would be starting from a clean slate. The Fire Marshal's Office has carried out inspections over the years, so if we are going to be responsible, we would certainly want to get those records. We did have discussions relative to that aspect.
Whether we could get and to what value we would put on inspections carried out, such as you pointed out, we really didn't have any discussions, but that is one of those transitional issues that you have to get. If we are responsible, then we would have to get that information somewhere. We would certainly want to have some history to start with.
MR. MORASH: Okay. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Bob, would you like to bring some clarification to a point.
MR. CORMIER: Again through you, Mr. Chairman, you were right in your question in regards to the insurance companies. Very few today do actual inspections except on, ultimately, large industries such as Stora.
We do have one company in the Valley area that does a tremendous amount of fire prevention activity in order to cut their losses but most insurance companies have now gotten out of the business. We did have an organization known as the Insurers' Advisory Organization who used to do fire inspections on behalf of insurance companies for heavy industry. That company has since withdrawn a lot of that and does it on a contract basis.
One of the reasons that we have been a little hesitant on responding to the contract issue: as you are aware, the provincial government policy basically tries to keep departments from getting into the private sector where the private sector is best involved.
British Columbia has gone through a very similar exercise to what we are doing now. There the Insurers' Advisory Organization has set up a contract fire inspection system with many of the municipalities. So we were waiting until all of the options were there to present them to the municipalities. There are a number of other options available.
MR. MORASH: Mr. Chairman, for point of clarification, you said there is an insurance company that does a lot of fire inspections in the Valley area here?
MR. CORMIER: Yes, in the Valley area.
MR. MORASH: Do they do those to the fire marshal's satisfaction with regard to this inspection?
MR. CORMIER: Better than. Ninety per cent of their policies, I believe, are farmlands and they have done a tremendous amount of work to bring down the fire losses on farms in the Valley region.
MR. MORASH: So an inspection from them, if accepted by the municipality, would be accepted by you?
MR. CORMIER: Yes. The vast majority, as I say, are farm buildings and electrical. Again, it would have to be evaluated as to whether they were into the public safety area in places like assemblies.
MR. MORASH: And they would have a fire safety engineer, or they would have inspectors who train?
MR. CORMIER: They have trained inspectors, yes.
MR. MORASH: Okay. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Kevin.
MR. DEVEAUX: I wasn't going to ask a question but now I will. You talk about private sector coming in and doing it on behalf of municipalities. Are there certain certifications that they have to have in order to be . . .
MR. CORMIER: That is correct. One of the things we are trying to build under the Act is that in order to be qualified to carry out fire inspections, you will have to be certified according to the International Fire Inspectors' Certifications.
MR. DEVEAUX: That would come under the regulations after the Act?
MR. CORMIER: That is correct. As a matter of fact, the deputy for this particular area is going out to Manitoba at the end of this month to take training so they can come back and be the trainer for our other inspectors.
MR. DEVEAUX: Okay. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Kerry.
MR. MORASH: One question to add on to that. If you were going to train me to be an inspector, what would you have to do to get - maybe I'm trainable. Let's assume I'm trainable. (Laughter) What training would you give me to get me to the accepted level?
MR. CORMIER: Well, the very first basic training we give you is to learn the severity of fire because that is the first underestimation that inspectors do. You have to learn just how bad fires are. So we will normally send you to the Fire School just to show you how bad fire is.
MR. MORASH: One day, one week?
MR. CORMIER: You're probably looking at a two-weekend program there. We take the Level I firefighter, actual on-scene activity. We don't allow you to do the actual firefighting because we don't want you hurt. We want to make an inspector out of you.
Then we train you on the Fire Code which takes anywhere up to four weeks; the Building Code, Part 3 and Part 9 which are the major portions of large buildings and small buildings; the Wood Energy Technical Training Program which is a one week course for inspectors; Oil-Burning Appliances, which takes another week; then we have upgrade courses from the National Fire Protection Association for sprinkler systems, fire alarm systems.
The total program, and one that we are trying to develop, is based on approximately 60 per cent home study. Excuse me while I check on that one. Harold, is that correct? Yes. I have to ask the expert because he is responsible for the committee that is putting this together with the Fire Inspectors Association. It is approximately 60 per cent home study.
MR. MORASH: So that would be 60 per cent home study in five weeks?
MR. CORMIER: We are probably looking at, for a new inspector, a minimum of two weeks per year for about five years. In some years it would be three weeks. The initial expenses are quite high. When we did the costing out for the municipalities, those costs were included in that.
Again, the aspect is to do very much the same as the building inspectors did, where Municipal Affairs supported that for a number of years. As a matter of fact, I became certified
under the Department of Municipal Affairs. Eventually, as that became mature enough, it was taken over by the building inspectors themselves.
MR. MORASH: Okay, thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. Our next presenter is Russ Mackintosh.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, SR.: I'm recharged.
Mr. Chairman, I am the President of the Western Nova Scotia Firefighters' Association, established in 1950. Vice-President is Doug MacLean. Would you mind standing, Doug? The Secretary-Treasurer is Lieutenant Kevin Ernst.
The organization I represent consists of 160-plus fire departments from Shubenacadie to Yarmouth and up to Blandford on the South Shore of this province. Our history dates back 50 years. This organization was responsible in the years gone by for such legislation as the Standard Hose Coupling Act, among others, as well as the development of the first Mutual Aid System in North America. This system is still recognized as one of the best in the continent.
We have come to meet with you this evening to express our thoughts and concerns with the proposed Fire Safety Act or Bill No. 58, as it was known in the legislation when it was introduced.
We were very dismayed when the legislation died on the order paper when the House rose before passing the bill. We are well aware of the history of this proposed legislation and are very displeased with the length of time it has taken to move the Act through the many stages it has gone thus far. We were in total disbelief when the fire service of this province was told that the province struck yet another committee to study the topic and return it to the public hearings.
The stakeholders were consulted and gave their input; the concerns of the fire service were made known to the committee studying the Act prior to it being placed into legislation form. While not all aspects of the legislation meet with the approval of the fire service, the delay in enacting this revised legislation is hampering fire safety in this province. A delay in the inspection of buildings on a properly scheduled basis is placing our firefighters at risk.
When we respond to alarms, we risk the safety of our personnel. Firefighting is very hazardous to those who participate in helping their fellow citizens on a volunteer or career basis. To respond to alarms, to evacuate the occupants and then search for those who are missing in buildings that have not been properly and regularly inspected adds to the risks we face.
Who carries out these inspections and faces the related expense is not within the mandate of the volunteer fire service, nor should it be. The scope of the practice of the volunteer fire service should not include the legislated responsibilities for conducting fire safety inspections. To enable the fire service to participate in the process, where capable, would be acceptable.
The powers granted in the new proposed Fire Safety Act bring the Act more into line with the reality facing the fire service in the province today.
When enacting legislation, we respectfully request that the plight of the finances of the volunteer fire service in this province be considered carefully. We ask that no new expenses be added to the responsibility of the volunteer fire service without allotting committed dollars to pay for the additional burdens in any new legislation. While many fire departments may appear to be wealthy, I represent many small, rural fire departments who survive on funding of $6,000 per year or less. These departments simply cannot continue to operate if they are burdened with the further expense from new legislation. Should small fire departments decide that they can no longer afford to operate and fold, the fire department taking over their service area will have longer response times and, therefore, the safety of the citizens of this province will diminish, not to mention the safety of the responding fire personnel.
While I could elaborate much further on many points, the main message I would like to impart to you this evening is that the Western Nova Scotia Firefighters Association that I represent would like to have the benefits of this proposed Act for the members of our association and the citizens of the areas we serve.
Thank you for your interest and concern this evening. I look forward to being able to bring the good news to my association when this Act has passed through the Legislature. Yours in firefighting and fire safety, the Western Nova Scotia Firefighters Association, Chief Russ Mackintosh, President.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. Kerry.
MR. MORASH: One quick one. You said about small departments folding. If a small department folded, is there a guarantee that another fire department has to pick up that area?
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, SR.: No, no guarantee.
MR. MORASH: So there could be an area without fire service. . .
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, SR.: There could be.
MR. MORASH: . . .if a small department shut down.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, SR.: There could be but I would never visualize it happening.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, SR.: Thank you very much.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Our next presenter is Doug MacLean. Go ahead, sir.
MR. DOUG MACLEAN: Good evening, Mr. Carey and committee members. Thank you for the opportunity to address you this evening on a matter that is very important to the fire service of the province.
I currently serve as both Chief of the Lawrencetown Fire Department and President of the association of the 11 fire departments serving the citizens and property owners of Annapolis County.
It is very appropriate to be addressing you during the week set aside in North America to focus on fire safety, known more commonly as Fire Prevention Week. Really, the prevention of fire and topic of fire safety is the main purpose of this piece of legislation that we are considering this evening.
Our association is aware of the history of the study, lengthy consultation and numerous processes leading up to the introduction of legislation into the House of Assembly with respect to the revision of the current Fire Prevention Act. The Act had not been updated for a number of years when, in 1996, a number of "stakeholders" were identified and called to serve on a committee to review and propose changes to bring the Act into modern times.
Revisions were deemed to be necessary. The work to identify the necessary revisions continued for over five years. Finally, draft legislation was prepared, circulated for comment, then introduced into the House in June 2000.
The fire service was and is satisfied with the legislation as introduced into the House in legislative form. We were dumbfounded when the legislation was allowed to die on the order paper when the House rose. Indeed, the Fire Officers' Association of Nova Scotia passed a motion expressing extreme displeasure with the further delay in passing this Act at its semi-annual meeting in Greenwood, April 22, 2001.
The message from the association I represent here tonight is brief and clear. The fire service is satisfied with the proposed legislation as it was introduced into the House. Please pass the Act promptly and without change.
Our firefighters and the public are at risk each and every day the legislation is delayed. Buildings that need inspections on a regular basis are not receiving proper and timely
inspection. Our firefighters are entering those buildings in their response to emergency situations. Without a regular, methodical building inspection system in place and followed, unnecessary risk is being taken.
Our ability to have true authority to deal with situations when they are found is hindered by lack of effective, up-to-date legislation. The proposed legislation will enable those responsible to deal with situations in a more expedient manner.
The fire service of this province is told repeatedly by all elected officials how much our service and commitment is appreciated. When the opportunity comes to truly show the appreciation politicians hold for the firefighters of the province, we ask that all members of the Legislature join together and support us by ensuring the speedy passage of this needed legislation. Thank you for your time in receiving and considering this presentation.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. Our next presenter is Russell Mackintosh Junior.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, JR.: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, committee members and the audience. My name is Russell Mackintosh. I represent the Municipality of the County of Annapolis and the Nova Scotia Building Officials Association. I have been employed as a building inspector for the past 14 years and have maintained membership. I presently hold office as the second Vice President and Chairman of the Education Committee.
As Chair of the Education Committee, I have watched the development of a thorough and challenging professional studies program, providing a certification tool and maintenance training for building officials across the province. The courses and seminars provided have been widely accepted by other groups and associations such as the Fire Inspectors Association of Nova Scotia, home builders, private home inspectors, home designers, architects and engineers alike.
I have included a copy of the professional studies program with the registrar, should you be interested in the parameters of training available.
Whereas the main purpose of the Building Code is to deal with fire and life safety issues in the design and construction of buildings such as smoke alarms, chimneys, oil-burning and solid-fuel-burning equipment, the installation of fire alarms and sprinkler systems. They are all dealt with in the Building Code. As well, all are required to be designed under the Building Code constructed as per the standards under the code and inspected by building inspectors as appointed by the municipality and given authority to enforce as legislated to the municipality.
On the other hand the Fire Code deals with the use of the building by its occupants and materials within, as well as the maintenance of equipment and systems of fire protection
designed and constructed in the building under the authority of the building inspector. Therefore our concern with this proposed legislation enabling direct administration of the Building Code or the "who is in charge" situation arises.
Also provided is a copy of correspondence to the Honourable Angus MacIsaac from the Municipality of Annapolis County, and I quote: ". . . there is a need for policy decisions to determine which level of government should be responsible for administration and enforcement of the Building Code and the Fire Code." As well, ". . . we feel it is imperative to prevent needless bureaucratic duplication."
Furthermore, imperative to the municipalities of Nova Scotia is the opportunity to review proposed regulations pursuant to the legislation to consider the dramatic financial impact to follow.
Further, questions arising from the proposed Bill No. 58 have been:
- Section 19(b) requires the municipal unit to appoint a fire inspector to carry out fire safety inspections while duplicating the same responsibilities of a local assistant of the fire marshal under Section 14(s).
- Should the legislation enable the fire marshal or his assistant to enforce compliance with the Building Code, which is already a municipal responsibility?
- Why does design and the construction of Part 3 Major Occupancy Buildings require the approval of the province? Once again a responsibility legislated to the municipality. All buildings requiring a building permit, including Part 3 Major Occupancy are required to be designed by a professional engineer and/or architect, with their plans approved by the municipal building inspector who inspects for compliance to the Building Code. Furthermore, the owner is required to forward a letter of undertaking and submit plans prepared by a professional who also inspects during construction for compliance and certifies to the municipality that the buildings are constructed in compliance to the approved plans.
It is common knowledge that the Office of the Fire Marshal is understaffed and I submit that the provincial review, on many occasions, is completed long after the building permit and/or occupancy permit is issued by the municipality.
- Finally, how do provisions regarding unsafe conditions in buildings, which clearly exist in the Building Code Act and the Municipal Government Act, relate to construction requirements in Section 25 of the proposed legislation?
If correction of the contravention under the Fire Safety Act or unsafe condition identified under the Building Code Act or MGA is required, does the applicant build or alter the existing building as per the Building Code Act and its regulations or to the order of the fire marshal, which may be in conflict of each other?
Building inspectors are trained in the Building Code and there is presently a certified building inspector in all but two municipalities. Why, then, duplicate responsibilities creating conflicts and confusion?
In closing, I thank you for this opportunity to express concerns raised and trust that a careful review and thought will be used to address all concerns through changes to the proposed legislation to provide a much-needed National Fire Code as a Provincial Fire Code administered at the local level. Thank you.
MR. BOUDREAU: We have heard from building inspectors, basically at every meeting. I think it is fair for me to say, at least, that they are not happy with this bill.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, JR.: Yes.
MR. BOUDREAU: I think I recognize, too - it is important to recognize that maybe it is not a perfect bill; however being a committee member and a member of the House of Assembly, I recognize the fact that the fire service is a very necessary service that we have to provide and that the firefighters - particularly volunteers or paid, it doesn't matter - they need protection. I feel that this bill, at least, provides that protection.
My question is, I am wondering if these differences can be worked out after the bill is passed in the House, if a committee could be struck between your association, perhaps the firefighters or whomever, do you believe that these differences can be worked in a manner that could be positive to all involved?
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, JR.: I do but I would feel it very important that that be worked out prior to the passing of the legislation.
MR. BOUDREAU: Prior to?
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, JR.: Yes.
MR. BOUDREAU: Why?
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH , JR.: An opportunity to review the regulations that come pursuant to this could have dramatic impacts on the municipal units, as well in costing.
MR. BOUDREAU: In costing? Okay, but is your main concern as a building inspector or as an employee of the municipal unit?
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, JR.: The main concern I am expressing here, as a building inspector, is the duplication within the proposed Act, with the present Building Code Act. As well, as I quoted in the letter to Angus MacIsaac, the municipality was expressing similar concerns.
MR. BOUDREAU: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
MR. STEELE: I am going to pick up on the same topic Brian just touched on. Maybe all it amounts to is asking the same question with different words. Broadly speaking, as we go across the province, what we hear at each stop is by and large similar.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, JR.: Okay.
MR. STEELE: The fire service asks, what are you waiting for, why hasn't this bill passed already, and what is it going to take to get it passed as quickly as possible? The municipalities, when they appear, are saying to us, by and large we support the legislation but we have some questions principally around the area of cost and responsibility.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, JR.: The administration of that?
MR. STEELE: Right.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, JR.: Yes.
MR. STEELE: The administration. And then the building inspectors are the third group and you are part of that group.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, JR.: Yes.
MR. STEELE: They're saying we support the legislation but we have some really serious questions . . .
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, JR.: That is correct.
MR. STEELE: . . . about overlap, duplication, responsibility.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, JR.: Yes.
MR. STEELE: So let me put a question to you that is perhaps a little unfair and maybe is a question that we all up here should be answering. Are your objections, in your opinion, serious enough to hold up the passage of this legislation?
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, JR.: Based on the presentations I have heard here tonight, it was my first opportunity to hear it from the perspective of these other associations and groups. I have spoken with my father briefly on this and gotten his opinion (Laughter) and I hear it ringing through, loud and clear, that the fire services does need this bill to pass and for very good reasons. I do support them in their endeavour to get it passed, but I don't want to see this bill get passed and the concerns raised by the municipal units and the building officials not be addressed. That is where I would stand firm in getting a commitment from the provincial government to deal with those concerns.
MR. STEELE: Okay. Now, what the fire service has been saying to us at our meetings is that the building inspectors have had five years to have their concerns heard and dealt with. . .
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, JR.: Yes, that's right.
MR. STEELE: . . . that the bill hasn't quite turned out the way the building inspectors want but that doesn't mean that have already had input - I am just saying what the fire service is telling us . . .
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, JR.: Yes.
MR. STEELE: . . . that now is not the time to hold up the legislation so that the building inspectors' views can be heard again because they have already been heard, they just haven't been necessarily supported by the Fire Safety Advisory Council.
Now, I guess my next question is if we are going to resolve the building inspectors' concerns before the legislation passes, what is the best way to do that? Is it just to get the Fire Officers Association and your association together in a room and not let you out until you agree, or is there some other way of resolving these issues?
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, JR.: I don't have the answer to that question. I would like to think that that might be a workable situation, but I don't believe it is. I certainly do support the Fire Services Association in getting an expedient approval of this bill. I guess I just have to leave it up to your capable hands to come up with a solution for that.
MR. STEELE: Okay, thank you very much.
MR. DEVEAUX: I am going to follow on the same thing. I must say though, Mr. Mackintosh, it is hard for you to come here and say you want this bill delayed until it is
addressed and then now you say I agree with the fire service. I mean, you can't have it both ways.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, JR.: Well I agree with the fire services from their point of view of the legislation. The point of view of the building inspectors and the municipalities - it affects those two associations differently than it affects the fire services.
MR. DEVEAUX: Let me ask around the issue of the building inspector; let's put on that hat for a minute. Please forgive me if I am off on exactly what you were trying to say. Your concern is that because the building inspectors are the ones who sign off basically on Building Code approval?
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, JR.: That's correct.
MR. DEVEAUX: Two parts, Part 3 and Part 9 of the Building Code also have a corresponding connection with the Fire Code.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, JR.: Right.
MR. DEVEAUX: That there is a need - there will be duplication potentially in who will be doing the work.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, JR.: Yes, there will.
MR. DEVEAUX: You are worried that that will be a cost overrun for the municipality because of that, delays? How does that affect you as a building inspector if someone else has to sign off on it as well?
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, JR.: Well, it affects me as a building inspector with the confusion in the general public for developers, contractors alike. If the authority is given under present legislation that I am responsible to do particular inspections, but yet people turn to the Office of the Fire Marshal because historically, for years, the fire marshal is the authority, which is incorrect due to the present legislation in the construction of buildings.
MR. DEVEAUX: So what prevents you, under this legislation, or any municipality from giving the building inspectors the authority to do the inspections under the Fire Code Act as well? Do you know of anything in the upcoming legislation, Bill No. 58, that says the municipality can't designate its building inspectors?
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, JR.: There has been lots of discussion in that direction, that presently the training - and as Mr. Cormier alluded to earlier - there are four Building Code courses that we offer that have been picked up by FIANS and included in the certification program of fire inspectors across the province.
So, presently, myself being certified as an SR II, which is the top-rating right now for building officials in the process, the courses required for me to become a fire inspector would be the other courses that are being implemented by this Bill No. 58.
MR. DEVEAUX: You're already halfway there, potentially?
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, JR.: I'm halfway there, yes.
MR. DEVEAUX: So what is preventing - in your Municipality of Annapolis, or in Lunenburg or in Victoria - that the building inspectors are, I mean it is up to the municipality to decide, right, but there is nothing to prevent it . . .
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, JR.: . . . the municipality to assign that duty to the building inspector and compensate them accordingly, I would expect.
MR. DEVEAUX: Or hire more, of course.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, JR.: Yes.
MR. DEVEAUX: My point is, I guess, that your concern is of duplication . . .
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, JR.: Yes.
MR. DEVEAUX: . . . but there is nothing in this legislation that says it necessarily has to be duplicated, and that if the municipality wants to ensure that this is done appropriately and cost-effectively they could easily find, eliminate that duplication. Would you agree with that? If the building inspectors are the ones that are signing off on everything, if they are also the people, the fire inspectors . . .
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, JR.: If they're also the fire inspector?
MR. DEVEAUX: Yes. Wouldn't that eliminate the duplication? Wouldn't that eliminate confusion?
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, JR.: It would help, yes.
MR. DEVEAUX: Okay. Thank you.
MR. MORASH: Just a question. We have heard from the building inspectors before and at the current time it appears - and someone can correct me if my memory is not good - but the building inspectors have a good working relationship with the Fire Marshal's Office. The building permits are issued and sets of plans - I guess it was mentioned if you have a set of plans from a professional engineer or an architect, your job as a building inspector is, once
you have issued the building permit, to ensure that it is built to the code or built to the plans and all the speculations and . . .
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, JR.: That's correct.
MR. MORASH: . . . a copy of those also go to the fire marshal currently?
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, JR.: Under the present Fire Prevention Act, Section 28, there is a requirement for the owner to submit a set of plans to the fire marshal for review. I believe it says "for advice".
MR. MORASH: Yes. "Critical inspection", I think someone mentioned the other night. What is the advantage to the building inspector for those plans to go into the Fire Marshal's Office? How does that help you?
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, JR.: Well basically, in the Municipality of Annapolis County, we have a very good working relationship, I believe, with the Fire Marshal's Office and also the Deputy Fire Marshal, Mr. Harold Pothier.
What happens we would still issue the building permit prior to any approval or review of the plans by the Office of the Fire Marshal because it is legislated to the municipality to do so. So that review is a review that is presently done on a time frame within which the Office of the Fire Marshal can allocate it to his plan's examiners. Now, there again, that is a duplication.
MR. MORASH: Okay, but the professional engineer or the architect is legally liable and responsible for the accuracy of those plans, with regard to the Building Code and the Fire Code?
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, JR.: Yes, they are, but it doesn't relieve the building inspector from doing a review of those plans to ensure compliance with the Building Code.
MR. MORASH: Okay. So a second set of eyes, and then the Fire Marshal's Office would be a third set of eyes?
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH, JR.: That's correct.
MR. MORASH: Okay, thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINTOSH JR.: Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Our next presenter is John Craig.
MR. JOHN CRAIG: John Craig, President of the Fire Officers Association. I don't have a formal presentation, just a comment.
In Sackville, we heard from the building inspectors and one of their grave concerns was that the plans not go to the Fire Marshal's Office, that they were completely competent in checking them over and there was no need for them to go in there. That was one of their grave concerns.
We heard a presentation from the municipality, and one of their grave concerns was that the Fire Marshal's Office wasn't doing enough plan checking. They wanted the Fire Marshal's Office to do more, their building inspectors to have to do less because of the liability issue.
So we have the employee on one hand saying one thing; the employer on the other hand was completely opposite. I think if the building inspectors have grave concerns, maybe they should check with their employers before they try holding up this legislation, because we want it passed as soon as possible.
MR. MORASH: Is that an issue that you plan to take and follow up on, with regard to the building inspectors? I mean, communicating to them that they perhaps need to discuss it with municipalities and that type of thing? We do have two sides here, with regard to building inspectors, and the fire service who are a bit opposed and I am just wondering if there is any way we can bring them closer together.
MR. CRAIG: I understand you people have a meeting scheduled with them and it is something you may want to discuss with them at that time, that they may want to check with their employers to see what they want to do. You have heard from the fire service, we want this passed.
As I stated before, the building inspectors had ample opportunity during the several years of consultation on this thing, and no it did not pass unanimously but, as I said before, if we waited for anything to pass unanimously, we would be still waiting for the last Act in 1976 to be passed.
MR. MORASH: Okay, thanks.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Graham.
MR. STEELE: I just wanted to make a brief comment for our audience who may not be aware, Mr. Craig is the President of the Nova Scotia Association of Fire Officers, as well as being the volunteer fire chief in Chester Basin. He has been following us around the
province, it seems, so tonight's presentation was short because it is more a continuation of presentations he has made at other stops. So, thanks again, for talking to us tonight.
MR. CRAIG: Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Do we have any other presenters? Mr. Cormier.
MR. ROBERT CORMIER: I apologize, Mr. Chairman. I was going to hold this for our meeting in Sheet Harbour next week but I decided I would do it tonight since it was opportune. I don't have enough copies for everyone but I have a copy there for the committee.
The building inspector-fire inspector issue is a nightmare anywhere that you go in North America. I will be meeting next weekend with fire marshals from throughout North America, all the States in the United States and all the Provinces in Canada. It is one of the principal issues that comes to the table constantly.
What we attempted to do is create legislation to try to downplay that as much as possible; mainly because I came up through a system where I didn't know any better. That is the way we worked in my particular community, the fire inspector and the building inspector together.
First of all, in regard to the municipalities, every now and then I get hit with something new and I start to ask myself just how much I am supposed to know. I got two requests from one municipality today to approve the fire safety for a subdivision development. Now, that is well beyond my normal criteria in what I do. So, yes, the municipalities do like to receive as much service from us as possible; we just can't supply it, not unless I triple my staff.
As it is right now, as Harold said earlier tonight, I am taking a weekend off which means I have Saturday to myself because Sunday, I have to work.
A lot of questions have come up. After last night's meeting, I had an opportunity to have breakfast this morning with one of the building inspectors, so I could try to understand some of the situations. I think I have come up with a couple that may be an issue. After Mr. Mackintosh's discussion, I think this is a proper time to follow up on it, if you don't mind.
I went through the fire safety bill today and pulled out all of the sections that have any impact between the Fire Safety and the Building Code. There are parts there - a building is a building and it is regulated by two documents; the Building Code which builds it and the Fire Code which maintains it. I might add that the Fire Code will also, after 2003, contain all the retrofit legislation.
It is not our desire to try to grab more power, more authority, or anything else. I am trying to strip it down to where my office staff can handle what we are trying to do in the first place.
The first part of it states that the failure of a fire official to identify or communicate a violation of this Act, the regulations, the Fire Code, or any Act or regulations, that the fire marshal has the power and authority to enforce, or the issuance of a building or occupancy permit, pursuant to the Building Code Act, with respect to land or premises apart thereof, does not derogate from the application of lands or premises, or part of this the regulations of Fire Code or other Act or regulations, the fire marshal has the power of authority to enforce.
In other words, just because an individual has been approved by a previous fire inspection or has an occupancy permit does not mean that the building meets the intent of the Building Code.
We have gone into buildings where there has been no sprinkler system installed. We have gone into a building where there is no fire alarm installed. We have gone into buildings where basic fire safety equipment has not been installed. For what reason, I am not here to judge that. I am only here to state, we have the problem that faces us. And on occasion, some of those facilities do have occupancy permits, okay?
In other cases, no, certainly, they don't. I would estimate that approximately 60 to 65 per cent of the building stock in this province was built before 1987, which means that there was not a building standard in this province used in all jurisdictions. Almost all of the municipalities had something. Halifax County, up until that time, we were using a 1965 Building Code, which certainly put us well behind.
There are times, even though there is an occupancy permit on there or a fire inspection has been carried out, things get missed. I will be quite truthful with the committee. There are times when people are told that we are not going to push it. And when we go in, we find the problems, we have to solve them. So that is the first occasion that is mentioned.
Under Section 18, by the regulations, the commencement of construction of a building, alterations or repairs to an existing building, an owner of the building shall submit plans and specifications to the fire marshal for review for the purpose set out in Subsection 2. Unless otherwise prescribed by the regulations, the purpose and scope of the review required pursuant to that Subsection is to provide the fire marshal with an opportunity to advise the owner and a building inspector.
In other words, we don't approve. We will have no authority to approve. Our authority comes from the end of the day when we have to agree to a licence being provided to that property. We don't want to arrive at a building where there is a $100,000 renovation required before we are going to provide the licence. We would like to solve those problems
before we get there. We have had situations that have arisen in the past and that is not just our opinion.
The justification comes right from the Building Code that is adopted by the Province of Nova Scotia. It says, quite clearly, the two codes have been development as complimentary in coordinating documents in order to reduce to a minimum the possibility of conflict in a respective content. To aid in their efficient application, fire and building officials must be fully conversant with the fire safety standards of both codes. Such officials shall be involved, both in the review and the approval of plans, with respect to fire safety prior to granting a building permit and with the inspection of buildings for fire safety. This is the only way to determine that all known hazards have been considered and a satisfactory standard of fire safety has been achieved. That is a quote directly from the Building Code, itself.
The issue has been that we have required plans since 1976 for everything except one or two car garages. We can't do it. It is an impossibility. And we shouldn't be doing it. It is a municipal issue. All plans will be laid out in the regulations. As I said last night, those will be going out for people to purview. In that, the only requirement is for those buildings that we are involved with for licensing purposes or are owned by the Province of Nova Scotia.
The one that does stand out is the large hazard factories such as the tire plants. Those are the only plants we are going to do which will allow us the opportunity for turn-around time that does match the speed of the building inspectors with the approval and the allowance for the building permit.
Now, under Section 26, where an order made pursuant to Section 25, which is the allowance to make an order concerns a matter that is also regulated under the Building Code Act or the Nova Scotia Building Code Regulations, the fire official making the order shall furnish a copy of the order to the building inspector. We do not want construction going on in buildings without the building inspector being aware of it. So that order has to be supplied to the building inspector. There may be other issues related to that building that we are unaware of.
When we run across a building that does not have an occupancy permit and has been built since 1988, we now require the person to go back and get a building permit before we will do the inspection.
Under Section 27, no order shall be made pursuant - and I am going to paraphrase this one - basically, if that building is in compliance with any code that was established when that building was built, the fire inspector cannot require anything to be written out on that building.
Now, the reason for putting that in there is, we have building inspectors - I apologize for that - fire inspectors who have gone out and ordered things done in buildings for which
they had absolutely no right to do so; mainly because the other Act was quiet on it, it did not speak to it. So we are being very clear. If that building meets the intent of the Building Code, you cannot go in there and require anything to be done to change that building. The owner should not be stuck with unnecessary expenses. So that is spelled out very clearly.
Under the Building Code, "Application of Existing Buildings", the code is most often applied to existing buildings when an owner wishes to rehabilitate a building, change its use or build an addition, or where an enforcement authority decrees it a building or a class of buildings, be altered for reasons of public safety. I will mention that one in a moment.
It is not intended that the National Building Code of Canada, or Nova Scotia, be used to enforce the retroactive applications of newer requirements to existing buildings unless specifically required by local regulations or by-laws. Although the National Fire Code could be interpreted to require the installation of fire alarms, standpipe and hose, automatic sprinklers to an existing building, for which there was no requirement at the time of the construction, it is the intent of the Building Code Commission - and I am a member of that commission - on Building and Fire Codes that the National Fire Code of Canada not be applied in a manner to these buildings unless the authority having jurisdiction has determined that there is an inherent threat to occupants' safety and has issued an order to eliminate an unsafe condition. When I met with you the first time I talked about the sprayed-on Styrofoam insulation, that was allowed under one of the codes, and became an extreme fire hazard and we required it to be covered before the changes to the code.
Now, where an order is issued and the Building Code is involved - again, I will paraphrase - basically, the building inspector and the fire official have to work together. The reason for that is we don't want the fire official missing things that they should not, any more than we want the building inspector to.
When the fire official writes out an order, they have to consult with the building inspector. If the building inspector has provided a special condition to that building to allow something to occur, that gives them an opportunity to bring that to the fire inspector's attention, or if there is a condition that the fire inspector did not note and the building inspector does, then the order can be altered. So the two are supposed to work together.
Where the building official, inspector and fire official determine that the order can be implemented so as to address both the potential unsafe conditions and fire-safety concerns - and this is where the inspector I talked to this morning had the problem. I will read you the section, the Board, which a building permit is required under the Building Code Act, a building inspector shall issue a building permit upon payment of the applicable fees under the Building Code Act and regulations, and a permit shall be indicated on its face that it is issued under the authority of this Act.
Now, that is the wording that was agreed to, both by the Nova Scotia Department of Municipal Affairs at that time and the Department of Labour. There is an issue with that wording in that it has the appearance that the permit has now become a body of the Fire Safety Act, which was never intended.
So we are recommending, after talking to my lawyer today, that the language in that be changed. That is a recommendation we are bringing forward. (Interruption) No, it is in the Fire Safety Act. The wording is what was recommended, was provided by the Legislative Committee. However, it is confusing and it does have appearances of taking the authority of the building inspector away which was never the intent.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Cormier. Any other presenters?
It is not surprising to me, this is the largest turn-out we have had, because we are in Kings County, where we have in the Valley - as Russ has already indicated - a mutual aid system, we believe to be the best in North America and I believe it is pretty well recognized as that. We are very proud of our fire service in Nova Scotia. Being from this area, I know that we have one of the best right here and I know that in this area we are in tonight, Bev Wade was one of the people that initiated that mutual aid system. We can be very proud of our fire service in Nova Scotia and, particularly, here in the Valley.
I want to thank you for coming out. We appreciate your input. We will work as expediently as we can to bring forth legislation that you want that will best serve all the people of Nova Scotia. Thank you very much. (Applause)
[The committee adjourned at 8:55 p.m.]