On November 22, 2022 I was able rise in the Legislative Assembly to second Motion 126 “Thanking our first responders”. A huge thank you to first responders and volunteer firefighters in our communities. Please find video and transcript below.
Transcript: Hansard-22 November 2022 – Thanking Our First Responders (go to page 61 of 65 in PDF – page 5663 in Hansard):
Mr. Trivers: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I think it’s really so important that we have a motion like this on the floor to recognize our first responders, our volunteer firefighters, and the work they do across this province, especially in the light of disasters like Fiona. So, of course, it really is my pleasure to second this motion. It’s hard to imagine that such a critical role in our province is held by volunteers.
Often, I am invited to attend various events at the different fire departments around my district. Every time, when I’m speaking, I call them the ultimate volunteer because this is not doing the important work that other volunteer organizations do, where they go out and they give to their community, but they don’t necessarily put their safety at risk.
When it comes to our first responders, our volunteer firefighters, when they respond to events, they are putting their safety at risk every single time. I don’t mean just their physical safety from the events that you would expect, whether they’re going out, speeding down the road with the sirens flashing and going in to fight fires, or going into a place and a situation where they don’t know what’s going to happen, but of course, there’s the physical side, and there’s the mental side.
It’s so, so important to recognize these people that volunteer and do this. I want to commend the Member from Charlottetown-Winsloe for bringing this motion to the floor. I wanted to talk about the different fire departments that do serve District 18 Rustico-Emerald. There’s the New London Rural Community Fire Company, the New Glasgow Fire Department, and the North Rustico Fire Department.
Before I get into their Fiona response, I just want to talk about how humble, really, our volunteer firefighters are and first responders that work in these areas. These are people that go out and they work very hard at their day jobs, and then they dedicate hours and hours and hours. In fact, Mr. Speaker, in order for them to get any sort of compensation for the work they do – and I know I don’t have to tell you because you are, of course, a long, long-time volunteer firefighter – but these volunteer hours are required in order to get the small – I mean, I don’t even think compensation is the right word for it; things like free license registration for their vehicles, and things like this. If there’s anything that we can do to support firefighters more, I think we should do it.
I’m going to talk a little bit later on about a couple of volunteer firefighters and first responders that actually travelled to an international conference.
Along those lines, I wanted to read a post that was on the New Glasgow Fire Department Facebook page from September 24th, 2022. It was posted at 11:48 p.m. As you can imagine, September 24th; this is right in the – just after the heart of Fiona has passed. I mentioned that they’re a very humble group, first responders and firefighters. This was posted – I believe it was by the fire chief, although I’m not 100% certain because it was the administrator of the page. I’m just going to read it verbatim:
Don’t normally post about our emergency calls we attend… but I want to put a big thank you out to all firefighters across the Island along with EMS and 911 call takers and police and indeed to my department members who attended 11 calls since midnight last night! The dispatch radios have been going steady all night and day island wide. The craziest winds and rain yet we still jump and run out the door when the pagers beeps… Just to give you an idea how we spent the last 23 hours… We rescued a farmer off a barn roof with our aerial ladder, helped evacuate families whose roof was ripped off and houses flooded, cardiac arrest call, two major structure fires, water rescue call of a stranded vehicle on washed over road, trees fallen over a camper at a campground. Besides all that there were members who spend hours cutting trees and moving them off the road so we could have access around our fire district in case of other incoming calls. If you want to be a part of a team that never stops helping others in need join a fire dept. near you!!! Busiest day I had in 30 years at the hall and looking forward to a good night sleep.
So, like I said, volunteer firefighters – except, I think, amongst themselves – they respect privacy. They don’t go around the community talking about all the things they do. I know you know that, Mr. Speaker, but this was such an extraordinary event and the effort that was put forward during Hurricane Fiona and the resulting devastation was just so far above and beyond anything that our volunteer firefighters and all our fire departments and first responders had responded to before.
This person – and I believe it was the chief of the New Glasgow Fire Department – felt they had to comment and say – and you’ll notice they didn’t talk about just their fire district or just the fire districts in the area, like New London and North Rustico. They were saying across the Island. That’s why this motion is so important. These volunteers are going out and they are helping and standing side by side the professionals, often arriving before them. You’ll notice, in the post, he talks about EMS and 911. Although they’re volunteers and they’re unpaid for the work they do, in many ways, they are professionals, and in many ways, they are the backbone of our emergency response service. I just wanted to highlight that. I think it was really important to get that into the record here today.
I just also want to also highlight that anything that we can do as government to ramp up supports for our fire departments is something we should do. I know that many others in this Assembly are also passionate. I know the Minister of Fisheries and Communities has done a lot of work. I know that the minister of agriculture and land and justice and public safety and attorney general, the former one, did amazing work there. I know the new minister there will do it. I know that everyone in our caucus definitely, and in Cabinet, was passionate about that. But I want us continually to look for ways that we can help them.
One comment on that post on Facebook that I also wanted to read out is something that’s really important to acknowledge, and I think it has been acknowledged at every fire department gathering I’ve been at, but it is extremely important because you have the people that are going out and they’re risking their lives, in many cases, and their mental health to provide emergency response, but there’s always someone at home. Those people at home are as much a part of that team as the people who are out in the field. This was the quote:
It was also very difficult for our spouses to watch us go out the door in the dark and wind. Thanks for understanding what we do and why we do it. That’s another reason why this motion is so important. It’s important, as they say here, to understand what we do and why we do it. It’s just important to recognize the fact that it’s being done.
Without that post on Facebook, how would all of us that benefitted from the work of these people even know all of the different things that they had to do? You’ll notice, this is not – there’s one specific thing – we’re a volunteer firefighter. What we do is we get in a truck, we drive to a fire, we pull out our hose, we put out the fire. They were cutting trees off roads. They were rescuing a stranded vehicle from a washout on a road. There were cardiac arrest calls. They were doing a myriad of emergency response items. I salute every single volunteer firefighter and first responder that we have across this province for the work that they did.
Now, I wanted to talk a little bit about the New London Rural Fire Company. I would assume that their experience was much like that post on Facebook from New Glasgow, but I know they were one of the ones that really advocated for supports that are going to help in the aftermath of Fiona and for any future disasters, God forbid. One thing that they did was, the Irving company, they did a number of fuel giveaways. They said we want to provide fuel to people for free who are dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona. As we know, that was one of the major, major expenses that people had to face in Fiona, was the price of fuel is high and if you were running a generator, that’s what you had to run it on, whether that was propane or gas.
The New London Rural Fire Company stepped up and they provided their location at the New London Fire Department to do the fuel giveaway. They did it extremely well on very short notice. They have an excellent location at the corner of Graham’s Road and Route 6. From all accounts that I’ve heard, it was a seamless, seamless operation, extremely well organized. I wouldn’t expect anything less from that fantastic fire company.
I was talking to the chief and I said, “Chief, is there anything that you need at your fire department that’s missing?” He’s always advocating, as all fire chiefs are; they’re always looking to improve things for their whole team. He said, “Well, the one thing I would really like is a streetlight at the entrance to the fire department driveway. There’s one at the corner but we need a streetlight there.” I might glance over here at the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, but if you can get them that streetlight, that would be fantastic. I had some conversations with your department earlier. I think they’re waiting for a call at the New London Fire Company, but if you can expediate that –
Mr. Deagle: (Indistinct)
Mr. Trivers: Thank you, minister. That would be great. It’s a simple request, but sometimes it’s the simple things that add just a massive amount of value. The other thing, and I believe the New London Fire Department was one of the key instigators in this, was they lobbied for generators that they could have at the fire department to help out people in need during future events, or at any time, really. I want to commend Cabinet and the minister responsible for coming up with up to 15 generators per fire department on the Island.
Ms. Compton: They’ve all been picked up.
Mr. Trivers: They’ve all been picked up? Well, thank you, minister. Allen Cole, that’s the chief of the New London Fire Department, was quoted as saying the generators will come in handy during events like post-tropical storm Fiona, which knocked out power to virtually all of PEI. This is an example of an action request that was asked for by the fire department, and kudos for the minister and Cabinet who came through and made this happen. Here we are, eight weeks since Fiona, and it’s already been done, and all the generators are out there. Well done. Well done.
Those are the sort of things we need to look for. It was interesting because there was an international Women in Fire conference that was being held this fall. A lot of people, when they think firefighter, forget that it’s not just men, it’s women.
There’s a lot of fantastic women firefighters. In fact, the North Rustico Fire Department had the first female fire chief on PEI, Alison Larkin; I want to recognize her again for that. And then there’s several women firefighters in my area. In fact, I’m probably going to miss some of them, but I know in North Rustico Fire Department, Aubry MacDonald and Laurie Dempster are a couple. Apologies for those I might be missing.
There were two firefighters from New Glasgow that wanted to attend this international Women in Fire conference. I believe it was down – believe it was in Florida or somewhere in the southern U.S. That was Julia Somers and Megan Court. They took it upon themselves to raise the money that was needed to get the flights down there and pay for the conference itself.
I have to point out that they were the only volunteer firefighters that attended the international Women in Fire conference. Everybody else there did that for a living and they were paid firefighters. I want to give kudos to them. I want to recognize them for making that happen. In the future, when those sorts of things come up, I’m hoping that our government can step forward and maybe provide a few more supports for them. I’m not sure if they really got that much help from government.
I’m going to lobby for, in advance, that we support those things in the future. I think it’s important. It was really interesting to see two things. First of all, the community support to support these ladies going to that conference was incredible. They actually singled out – they said it was our fellow firefighters who are the ones who provided them the most supports. They bought tickets on their draws, bought our leftover stock, and those sorts of things.
The other interesting thing, is guess when the conference was? It was actually during Hurricane Fiona. They were down at the conference – on September 23rd, was the day three of that conference. Their Facebook post was, they said, first of all, a little bit about the conference, and the experience they were having; talking about leadership, mindset, and the history of women in fire courses, and how lucky they were to be there. They also said, of course, “We are thinking of our fellow firefighters at home gearing up for the weather. Stay home.”
This is before Fiona hit. That’s what firefighters are. They’re always thinking about others, they’re always doing for others, and they’re always trying to make themselves better, so they can help others. It was in Florida. Even though they weren’t here for Hurricane Fiona, the Florida heat was 90-plus degrees. They started at 6:15 a.m. and they did a whole number of activities. It was very useful, and once again, I want to put a plea out here to support those sorts of endeavors from our firefighters in the future. More support. I should mention, as well, they actually had to bring their uniforms, their bunker gear with them when they flew down to the firefighter conference. That was really something; 200 pounds of luggage that they took with them to be prepared.
I’ve talked a lot today about how important it is to provide support to our firefighters. One thing I wanted to talk about was a time when we collaborated in this Legislative Assembly under the last administration, the Leader of the Third Party was minister I believe at the time, responsible for the Workers Compensation Board. The Minister of Fisheries and Communities brought a private members bill to the floor, and that was to really make it so that Island workers who are suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder could actually qualify for Workers Compensation. I want to give kudos to the Minister of Fisheries and Communities, the Leader of the Third Party, and –
Mr. Fox: Everybody. Everybody.
Mr. Trivers: – all those who worked together to make that happen. Unlike this administration and this sitting, it was extremely rare for a private members bill to be brought to the floor and passed. That was something. We put our volunteer firefighters and others that served and experienced post-traumatic stress disorder, we put them at the forefront, we overcame any differences, and we worked together to make that happen. That, of course, is the way the Legislative Assembly should work.
Ms. Lund: We should work like that for workers.
Mr. Trivers: I just want to say, again, as the mover noted, and I’m hoping other speakers will get to attest to, at some point, our first responders really are some of the finest members of our communities –
Speaker: Hon. members (Indistinct)
Some Hon. Members: [Laughter]
Speaker: Keep going, hon. member.
Some Hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Trivers: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. An Hon. Member: Just get him rolling.
Speaker: It’s a great motion.
Mr. Trivers: We can never fully thank them for what they do for us every day, but I am so extremely pleased to support this motion, to support our firefighters, and our volunteer fire departments, and everyone that helps out. I really encourage all members to do the same. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hansard-22 November 2022 – Thanking Our First Responders