The UBCM convention in Victoria brought some good news for rural fire departments, but that good news is still some distance in the future.
Delegates — there were about 1,000 in attendance from all over the province — approved without opposition a resolution from the TNRD asking the provincial government to lobby Ottawa to make federal gas tax funding available to rural fire departments for capital purposes such as equipment and fire halls.
Currently, fire departments are an eligible recipient for necessities directly related to fire protection, and local governments including the TNRD have been asking for that to be changed.
UBCM resolutions carry a lot of weight and result in a lot of new policies at senior levels of government, so this one is important. However, during the convention I met with a senior UBCM staff member who confirmed that the next opportunity to adjust gas tax criteria won’t come until five years into the current federal-provincial agreement, which was signed in 2014.
It’s a 10-year deal, but can be revisited in 2019. It would be great if it could happen sooner, but at least there’s hope for change — maybe the new government in Ottawa will be more sympathetic to the issue than the last one was.