6th District Vice President
In accordance with the provisions of Article V1, Section 7, of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Constitution and By-Laws, I respectfully submit this report of my activity as the 6th District Vice President to General President Harold Schaitberger, General Secretary-Treasurer Edward Kelly, the IAFF Executive Board and all officers and delegates in attendance at the 54th Convention in Seattle, Washington. This report contains a summary of my activities from October 2016 to April 2018. I attended all executive board meetings and carried out all assignments delegated to me by General President Schaitberger.
The 6th District proudly represents the IAFF across British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories and the Yukon in Canada. These past few years our members and local leaders have been challenged at times to justify our very existence. Politicians and the legal community attempt to downplay our role in public safety. Yet despite these negative attitudes towards our profession, our affiliates have stood strong, fought back and enjoyed success on the local and provincial level.
During this reporting period, I was appointed by the General President to serve on the following committees: Grants Administration Hazmat/WMD, Canadian Affairs, Information and Technology Systems, and four trial review boards. In addition, at the direction of General President Schaitberger, I served as a trustee in scholarship funds and on the IAFF Foundation.
I attended all committee meetings and fulfilled all duties required of me by virtue of these assignments. I had the opportunity to travel to each province in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan as well as the Northwest and Yukon Territories working in support of our 84 affiliates within the 6th District. I successfully reached out to those not affiliated in an effort to organize non-member fire fighters and paramedics within the district.
I responded to every inquiry and service request by a local affiliate or member in the 6th District in a timely manner to the best of my ability. I attended all the provincial conventions since my election, all the Canadian Provincial Presidents meetings, Canadian Labour Congress Canadian Council meetings, the Provincial Executive Board meetings, provincial regional meetings and both national and provincial legislative conferences, when my schedule permitted. I also attended the Redmond Symposium, Human Relations Conference, EMS Conference, Affiliate Leadership Training Summits, the Fallen Fire Fighters’ Memorials and represented the 6th District at far too many funeral services for members this term.
On February 28, I had the honor of attending the 100-year anniversary of the IAFF in Washington, DC. I was proud to attend with Vancouver Local 18 President Robert Weeks and Secretary Craig Lanthier. Rob and Craig represented their local as the only Canadian affiliate to be part of the original charter. This was a very special event. I felt very privileged to be part of this momentous occasion.
During the past two years in cooperation with our provincial associations the IAFF sponsored a 6th District PEP-like educational conference that enjoyed unprecedented support from the affiliates. We had 285 attending the first conference in 2014 in Whistler, BC, and more than 400 delegates attended this conference in 2016 and 2018 in Victoria, BC. The conference would not have been possible without the hard work and efforts on the ground by the BCPFFA.
Since the last convention, the IAFF issued a new charter to four new locals in the 6th District. On behalf of the IAFF and the 6th District, I would like to ask all the delegates to extend a warm welcome to the County of Grande Prairie Fire Fighters Local 5108 and our three new Saskatchewan paramedic locals. We continue to work with them to gain first collective agreements.
Across the district, we continue to make progress in all provinces and territories on legislation that improves cancer presumptions for new fire fighters while adding other coverage presumptions. We are also making progress throughout the district improving heart presumptions and adding presumptive coverage for mental health illnesses including PTSD. We are protecting our members’ emotional and mental health and providing behavioral health training.
I continue to work with all regions when requested in developing strategies to improve working conditions for IAFF members. We continue to develop stronger lobbying teams and are assisting with political action and community relations efforts. These efforts and related research initiatives are shared and communicated to affiliates on a regular basis. My work has included assisting our affiliates in pension matters and at the bargaining table. This includes sitting as a nominee to arbitration boards which requires lengthy preparation and the development of bargaining strategies and proposals.
The most significant political changes we have seen are the election of the NDP in Alberta, a Labour-led government after 44 years of Conservative rule and the election of the progressive Liberal government in Ottawa. Despite these two major shifts on the political landscape, Saskatchewan re-elected the extremely conservative Saskatchewan Party to its second term. Surprisingly, the NDP made little or no progress in Saskatchewan, and they lost ground in the federal election. The territorial elections saw some movement towards party politics, but for the most part, each MLA remains elected as an independent. In British Columbia, we have a new NDP government which is supportive of labor and fire fighters. We look forward to positive change in this province for all of labor.
Across the district, our affiliates embraced the IAFF non-partisan political action strategy and campaigned on issues affecting our members. Contributions to the Canadian IAFF FIREPAC remain incredibly high thanks to voluntary contributions from across 6th District which reached nearly 100 percent for the entire District.
As in other districts, our affiliates find themselves defending service levels, health care benefits and pensions over the past two years. In recent months, we have begun seeing some success, most notably on the pension front. Most affiliates are maintaining a defined benefit pension model, and over half the affiliates in the district secured improved pension benefits. Employer groups are more coordinated than in the past, but the resolve and strength among the leadership and the tenacity of our affiliates in the 6th District is up to this challenge. They acquire strength from each other as they face these challenges as one. The employers’ coordination of their efforts has brought out the best in our leaders.
The economy in British Columbia remains strong with economic growth that should provide opportunities for affiliates to grow and strengthen their staffing levels despite resistance from right-wing politicians. There also appears to be an opportunity to achieve improvements in health, safety and wellness for our fire fighters across most of the district.
The economies of Alberta and Saskatchewan suffered because of lower oil and commodity prices. Although there is relative stability, our affiliates in those regions will continue to face greater challenges than the rest of the 6th District, notably for our smaller affiliates in Saskatchewan who now have very limited access to the arbitration process by government statute.