THUNDER BAY – An executive with the Ontario Professional Firefighters Association has blasted the City of Thunder Bay for its strategic planning process, which he called flawed, biased and rushed.
Eric Nordlund, a local firefighter and OPFFA district vice-president, on Friday said city council has given a mandate to administration to look for cuts he believes can only result in a cut in emergency service and a loss of jobs.
Last month city officials issued a request for proposal, seeking a consultant to conduct an operational review of Thunder Bay Fire Rescue, which has an annual budget of slightly less than $30 million, a total workforce of 211 people and responds to about 9,000 incidents per year.
Nordlund said he decided to respond after reviewing the request for proposal issued by the city seeking the consultant.
He’s particularly concerned about the timelines involved, suggesting its far too short a window to properly conduct a review.
But Nordlund said the scope of what the city is asking for has him most worried.
“The consultants are to go out and specifically come back with cuts to the fire service,” Nordlund said.
“They identify that we’ve got an increased number of calls that we go to, but curiously they identify ways for us to not respond to some of these calls.”
Nordlund added he recognizes a lot of the calls in question are medical ones, which are almost always taken over by paramedic crews upon arrival on the scene.
He’s not sure where cuts could be made.
“I would say the budget for Thunder Bay Fire Rescue is one that does not have a lot of fluff. It is service delivery. It is fire stations and firefighters and fire trucks. That’s it. If you want to make cuts to the fire service, if you want to make cuts to that budget, you’re closing a fire station. That’s basically it,” Nordlund said.
“Our concern as the Ontario Firefighters is our firefighters. Obviously the public is another big, principal concern.”
Nordlund said cutting a fire station would mean a decrease in response times, which in turn could lead to higher insurance rates for both residents and businesses.
The study, which will lead to a new master plan next year, will be overseen by a committee that includes city general manager of development and emergency services Mark Smith, Fire Chief John Hay and two other members of city administration.
The final plan is expected to be delivered to council in August.