When volunteers first responders go out on calls, most don’t make any money. Most of the time, they lose money.
They are good-hearted people trying to make a difference, even if it hits them in the wallet, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t welcome financial relief.
A Parliamentary e-petition making the rounds is intended to do just that. The effort initiated by Parksville resident Sean Wood, and supported by a handful of Ottawa MPs, calls for an increase to the $3,000 tax credit currently offered to fire and search and rescue volunteers.
The suggested number is $10,000 and eastern Fraser Valley volunteers are getting behind the effort. David De Kleer, a volunteer firefighter in the region, said it’s top-of-mind right now with prices for everything going up.
“Definitely with current gas prices, it’s an extra challenge as we will often take our own private vehicles to the hall,” he said. “For search and rescue members, they’ll take their own vehicles to a callout.
“As another example, I had to do a Costco run for the hall last week, which I get reimbursed for. But driving from Chilliwack to Abbotsford and back, that’s on my dime. Just little things like that, they add up and up in a volunteer environment.”
According to the petition, volunteer firefighters account for 83 per cent of Canada’s total firefighting essential first responders and approximately 8,000 essential search-and-rescue volunteers respond to thousands of incidents every year.
They are eligible for the current tax credit if they volunteer for 200-plus hours in one calendar year, and the $3,000 tax credit calculates out to $450 per year.
In a letter he wrote to several decision-makers urging them to support the petition, including Chilliwack-Hope MP Mark Strahl, De Kleer suggested that while volunteers don’t do it for the money, it is a factor in retaining and recruiting.
“We’re a very busy society, and volunteerism across Canada in all non-profits is down,” he said. “Smaller towns especially rely on volunteer departments, and there’s a smaller pool to draw from, so there needs to be more incentive to recruit and retain.”
In order to guarantee it gets before Parliament for debate, the petition will need to reach 100,000 signatures before it closes Aug. 18, 2022.
It’s been open since April 20, 2022, and has 450 so far.
De Kleer feels it will pick up steam as more people find out it exists. But even if it doesn’t hit the number it needs to, the effort will be a success if it raises awareness and starts a conversation.
“I think it’s fantastic that people can reach across party lines and see the value in this issue,” he said. “That is very encouraging.”
Find the petition online at petitions.ourcommons.ca/en/Petition/Details?Petition=e-3979