Decisions on size of emergency services should be decided by safety standards

Council needs to undertake analysis of Mission's strategic fire plan

Editor, The Record:

Re: Letters are ‘fear mongering:’ Jewell, Nov. 22 edition.

Our new council has done some very good things, and none greater than the decision to broadcast council meetings on its website. If they hadn’t chosen to do so, I might have missed the obvious abandonment of basic respect and democracy that occurred Nov. 19.

By his own count, Coun. Jeff Jewell reported that 75 per cent of the public’s budget feedback this year raised concerns about the decision not to move forward with the district’s strategic fire plan. It was based on a year of analysis by former Chief Frank Ryan, using data that clearly showed Mission’s response times in the downtown area did not meet national standards. The reason was simple; our community is growing, but it has been a struggle to maintain a suitably sized paid-on-call force.

Our volunteers knew that Ryan’s recommendation to hire professionals was not a slap in their faces, as so many on council implied Monday night. Indeed, the plan called for a composite force using a core of 16 full-time firefighters — hired gradually over a period of years — along with a healthy complement of volunteers. And where would we hire our full-timers? From the best of our volunteers, because, after all, they have proven themselves to this community and Mission has invested significantly in their training and development.

But Jewell and the rest of council chose to dismiss the feedback because, in their words, it looked like an organized campaign. They accuse the letter writers of fear mongering, bullying and misleading the public. Such language is incredibly disrespectful to our fire department as it suggests they are more interested in self-reward than in protecting our lives and property. Having worked with these dedicated men and women, I can testify that nothing is further from the truth.

Jewell insisted council will stay its course, and demanded that the “organized campaign” cease and desist. He indicated that nothing will change the council’s mandate of low taxes, and his colleagues applauded this notion.

Shouldn’t decisions about the size of our police and fire squads be done based on standards of safety, as opposed to political promises about tax rates? After all, why pay taxes if core services aren’t being provided?

Mission’s council needs to show a higher regard for its correspondents, delegates and questioners. And it needs to undertake a simple, arms-length and expert analysis of the strategic fire plan rather than simply dismissing it out of hand. The first suggestion is a matter of a democracy. The second is a matter of public welfare.

Paul Horn