Went to RDOS Meeting today hoping for a story on rural fire departments (7) under the control of the Regional District. Meeting was delayed as reporters and a large contingent from Naramata Fire Department kicked out of meeting – so a lawyer could advise directors on “something” – most likely totally unrelated. Sorry folks in-camera meetings – should be talking about land, labour or legal issues – but who knows.
Finally ALL re-assembled in Salon A of the Penticton Lakeside Inn for a Protective Services Committee meeting.
Issue: To repeal Bylaw 2566 or not
Motion passed by the way – so its back to square one.
Regional District has been faced with new provincial standards for training of all and any firefighters under their umbrella.
The ‘playbook’ is a provincial training standard for all fire departments – fully paid staff in Vancouver or volunteers in Keremeos.
But what a number of directors of the RDOS clearly did not seems to discern – is this –
The Management of the Regional wants to and probably should have supervisory rights over all 7 RDOS fire departments. They are not individual histories but part of a regional system of administering – standards, codes of conduct, pay for service, elections of officers, what goes on inside publicly funded departments etc.
A lot of directors – “politicians” – for sure made the same comments at the meeting today.
Karla Kozakevich, (Naramata- rural) Chair of RDOS stated: we have volunteers who are paid but have a close connection to their communities – they all aspire to the standards of the “provincial playbook” : but today’s debate is about a bylaw that can regulate how fire departments are administered.
“You’re are playing with fire” if you do not understand the connection of volunteers to their communities” – Peter Waterman Summerland
Mark Pendergraft – Osoyoos – the ‘playbook’ for training is something all departments must face – let’s get to the issue. Let’s work with the fire chief to come up with a bylaw that takes their opinions and facts into account.
Judy Sentes of Penticton, Michael Brydon of (Westbench- rural) and Bob Coyne (Princeton- rural) all seemed to be frustrated with the process as they stated their job was to centralize and standardize all 7 departments with RDOS providing enhanced management and support.
Terry Schafer (Oliver-rural) told the board that importance of volunteers is paramount. A sentiment agreed to by Tom Siddon (Ok Falls/Kaleden-rural)
It is difficult for me to summarize all the conversation that went on for a fairly long time period. But.
It is clear to me – Management of RDOS does not see eye to eye with volunteer fire departments and likewise Rural Directors do not like a centralized approach to management of fire departments from Anarchist Mtn. to the Tulameen Valley. The vote 15-3 to go back to original bylaws for each department.
I believe, Summerland, Penticton, Osoyoos, Oliver, and Princeton are -GLAD- to be excluded from this discussion on how to manage a city fire department.
For more on this see below:
7 Fire Departments affected: Tulameen, Keremeos, Anarchist, Willowbrook, OK Falls, Kaleden and Naramata
Copy of report by CAO Bill Newell
That Bylaw 2566, 2011 be forwarded to the full board meeting April 19th and be repealed.
At their meeting of 15 March 2018 the Board referred Bylaw 2792, being a bylaw to provide for the administration and operation of Fire Departments, to the Protective Services Committee for further discussion.
The Regional District currently operates 7 Fire Departments, each with their own establishment bylaw and their own regulatory bylaw. The Service Establishment Bylaw sets out the geographic area and requisition limit for each service. The regulatory bylaw sets out the administration, powers and authorities of the Fire Chief and the Department.
Bylaw 2566 was passed in 2011 to set out regulations for all RDOS fire departments and delegations of authority to the Fire Chief. Bylaw 2566 did not repeal the 7 department regulatory bylaws, but contains a superiority clause which provides that:
“wherever this Bylaw sets out Fire Service Regulations with respect to Fire Departments and other such RDOS bylaws contain Fire Service Regulations, this Bylaw is deemed to prevail”. The Board commissioned Mitchell & Associates to conduct audits on each of the seven departments and develop a Fire Services Master Plan in 2017. Of the 25 recommendations included in the Master Plan, the majority identified weaknesses in Bylaw 2566, one of which was that the Regional District maintained active, conflicting bylaws for the regulation of their Departments. They suggested that the superiority clause in 2566 is sustainable for a transitionary period, but would not meet the test of Greenshields v. The Queen, which requires the superiority clause to expressly reference the content of the previous bylaw that is intended to be superseded. The better parliamentary practice should see the active regulatory bylaws repealed or revert to them by repealing Bylaw 2566. Other recommendations addressed the seeming weakness of 2566 to address confusion with reporting lines for the Fire Chiefs, new legislation (Playbook) that wasn’t contemplated in 2011, etc.
· Are Firefighters employees or volunteers?
· Will the Board administer Fire Departments individually or centrally?
· Will the Board adopt Bylaw 2792 or rescind Bylaw 2566 and revert to the 7 department regulatory bylaws?
1. Legally, RDOS FireFighters are employees. They receive an hourly wage, benefits and a T4. Neither Bylaw 2566 or 2792 contemplates employment status, nor do they restrict what the Board calls a Department. However, the existing Department Regulatory Bylaws do designate each Department as volunteer and have members appointed by and responsible to the Board. Discussions with the Fire Chiefs group have identified that the Chiefs strongly prefer status as volunteers reporting directly to the Board. A majority of the Directors enabling Fire Departments have also supported that concept.
2. The Board started talking about standardization of some Fire Department practices in 2010. Apparatus specifications, incident command, operational guidelines, wages, etc. Bylaw 2566 captured this intent in 2011, but did not repeal the existing Fire Department Bylaws. Bylaw 2566 contains provisions that are inconsistent with provisions of the Department Regulatory Bylaws
3. The 2017 Fire Services Master Plan identified weaknesses in Bylaw 2566; including but not limited to:
a. Confusion over reporting relationships for the Fire Chiefs
b. Legislation had changed with the introduction of the Playbook
4. Generally, the Fire Chiefs Group has not readily accepted the standardization, central reporting model contemplated in Bylaw 2566. The recent conversation at the Board, the postponements, and the direct dialogue between the Chiefs with elected officials would all indicate that the Board would be more comfortable reverting to the individual regulatory bylaws, thereby requiring that Bylaw 2566 be repealed”
Reading this report in its entirety may be confusing with directors debating the issue many times at many meetings in the past.
This report is centered on the repeal of Bylaw #2566 dated 2011 – but the real debate is on another bylaw #2792 (2018) referred to briefly in the report and all the letters from directors urging caution in dealing with volunteers and the design of compliance bylaws.</em