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EXCLUSIVE: PCs axe fire certification program aimed at raising safety standards

Last Updated Oct 11, 2018 at 12:41 pm EDT

After 100 days in office, the Ford government continues to dismantle many of the previous Liberal government’s initiatives: cap and trade, the sex-ed curriculum and now a fire certification program.

The PCs quietly announced Friday they would be scrapping the program aimed at raising safety standards in regards to fire personnel across the province. The announcement was made in an email sent to fire chiefs just before 4:30 p.m. on the Friday before the Thanksgiving long weekend.

Currently, there is no training or licensing required in order to get hired as a fire inspector, firefighter, dispatcher or trainer.

The previous Liberal government introduced the program after three different coroner’s inquests recommended certification and training for fire personnel.

One of the inquests was into a 2012 Whitby fire that killed three teenagers: Ben Twiddy, Holly Harrison and Marilee Towie.

The blaze began while they were cooking and a towel caught fire. The building only had one exit, which was a breach of the fire code, but the building had passed a fire inspection.

One of the recommendations from that inquest two years ago called for mandatory certification and training for all personnel who do “fire inspections.”

Another coroner’s inquest into a fire that killed four seniors in a retirement home in 2009 called for municipalities to have fire prevention personnel complete a Fire Prevention Officer certification program.

The third coroner’s inquest was examining the death of 30-year-old firefighting student Adam Brunt, who drowned during a cold water rescue training exercise.

One of the recommendations called for the province to create a system for instructors of fire protection services to be “certified.”

After years of pressure, the Liberal government put in place the new fire certification rules that were supposed to raise safety standards across the province and come into play in 2019.

In the email sent to fire departments across the province late Friday afternoon, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Michael Tibollo states he has heard “substantial concerns” that certification regulation would present “significant challenges” for “small, rural and northern municipalities with volunteer fire departments.”

A letter from the Liberal government just before the election tried to address those concerns, pushing back dates for certification and making it an “online testing system that would be free of charge.”

CityNews reached out to Minister Tibollo, but were told he was not available.

In a written statement, a spokesperson said the government is against how the policy was rolled out but is supportive of the certification of firefighters in general.

CityNews also asked if they plan on creating their own certification program, but they have not given an answer yet.