On April 21, Wellington – Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott introduced a new bill to extend workers’ compensation to volunteer firefighters, saying they deserve the same workers’ compensation protection as their full-time counterparts.
“In small-town and rural Ontario, volunteer firefighters keep us safe,” said Arnott. “They are often the first responders – both to fires and other emergencies. They deserve not only our thanks, but also protection against the risks they face in protecting our communities.”
Arnott said in an interview on April 24 that while he had no problems supporting a bill that helps professional firefighters, he would like to see that protection extended.
He said it is understandable that the legislature was in quick agreement in extending protection to full-time firefighters. First, he said, that group has the money that allows it to lobby heavily at Queen’s Park.
And, he added, firefighters receive enormous respect from nearly everyone these days.
So, two years ago the Ontario legislature passed a bill that improved workers’ compensation coverage for full-time firefighters who develop certain illnesses like cancers and heart disease.
Since the passage of that bill, those illnesses have been presumed to be work-related, allowing full-time firefighters who develop them to collect workers’ compensation benefits.
Volunteer firefighters, however, were left out. Arnott’s bill would cover them with the same protections that full-time firefighters rely upon.
National Volunteer Week began April 19, and Arnott took the opportunity to stand up for them once more.
“I guess I’m trying to light a fire under the Minister of Labour,” Arnott said. “There is no excuse for failing to protect volunteer firefighters in the same way they’ve protected full-time firefighters.”
Earlier this month, Arnott received a letter from the Township of Puslinch urging the provincial government to bring in a bill like Arnott’s. Since then, Centre Wellington council has also moved support for the volunteers.