Local MPP and Ontario Minister of Labour Laurie Scott has introduced reforms to protect full-time firefighters who also serve as volunteer firefighters (double hatters).
Full-time professional firefighters have risked serious consequences such as fines or dismissal if they also chose to serve as volunteer firefighters. Minister Scott’s reforms, included in last week’s Fall Economic Statement, would eliminate these unfair penalties and empower double hatters to serve their communities without the fear of legal repercussions.
“Local fire departments and municipalities in our riding have been asking for protection for double hatters for a long time, and I’ve been personally advocating on this issue for over fifteen years,” Scott said. “As Minister of Labour I’m thrilled to finally have the opportunity to protect these heroes from unfair punishment and empower them to serve their communities and save lives,” she continued.
The Kawartha Lakes Fire Rescue Service welcomed the reforms to protect double hatters. Fire Chief Mark Pankhurst said, “I support Minister Scott's legislation to protect the freedom of full-time firefighters to volunteer without the fear of fines or job loss. Allowing 'double hatters' will strengthen fire departments across Ontario and reinforce public safety in our community. This is a long overdue change that will benefit the City of Kawartha Lakes."
“We have several double hatters in the Kawartha Lakes, and I'd like to thank our Kawartha Lakes Professional Firefighters and double hatters for always maintaining a respectful working relationship,” Chief Parkhurst added.
Fire departments and chiefs across the province have also reacted positively to the changes introduced by Minister Scott. President of the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (OAFC) Chief Stephen Hernen said, "We commend the Ford Government for acting on these long-standing issues, and look forward to continuing to work together, protecting our firefighters, and ultimately keeping Ontario's residents safe."
Following Minister Scott’s speech at the OAFC Annual General Meeting last Wednesday, she was named a Honourary Fire Chief for her long-standing advocacy on this file.
On Saturday, Minister Scott met with volunteer firefighters, Haliburton County Fire Chiefs, and municipal officials at the Minden Hills Fire Hall to discuss the changes to protect double hatters in Bill 57. Minden Hills Fire Chief Mike Bekking said, “Fulltime fire firefighters should be able to service their community as volunteers and we welcome the government’s policy change, making it easier to volunteer in smaller communities and finally putting this issue to rest. I feel volunteers should be thanked for their service, not punished”.
Additional quotes provided by Haliburton – Kawartha Lakes – Brock Fire Chiefs:
“I welcome the changes that Minister Scott has made to the Fire Protection and Prevention Act. Double hatters and interest arbitration have been issues since I entered the fire service, and I’m pleased to finally see these much-needed changes made. Allowing full-time firefighters to volunteer is a common-sense move that will benefit rural fire departments.”
- Chief Mike Cavanagh, Algonquin Highlands Fire Services
“The Township of Cavan Monaghan has lost several volunteer firefighters due to the restrictions on ‘double hatting’. Minister Scott’s action to protect the right of professional firefighters to volunteer will directly benefit small community fire departments like ours.”
- Chief Bill Balfour, Cavan Monaghan Fire Department
“As a small community fire department, we appreciate Minister Scott taking action to protect firefighters who double hat. This is about empowering and protecting full-time firefighters who wish to volunteer their time to help out their neighbours in our community.”
- Chief Rick Harrison, Brock Township Fire Department