Cornwall Ontario – A war seems to be waged from the Cornwall Fire Services against Cornwall City Councilor Mark A MacDonald?
At root has been Councilor MacDonald’s position that the city has to come to grip with Fire and other services. Essentially we have to live within our ability to pay and that fire and police services have been rising faster than is acceptable.
Instead of there being any real discussion or debate, under Chief Voisine, there’s been media mudslinging against Mr. MacDonald, who himself is a former Firefighter with the force.
Chief Voisine was controversially hired under a City Hall with the Labour Council President sits on City Council with several other councilors rubber stamping higher taxes to gain favor with local unions at election time which has led to abusive and uncontrolled budgets without true accountability or transparency.
For example Chief Voisine will not release media updates. This writer lives in Downtown Cornwall, unlike most of the current fire service fighters, many who while on the Sunshine list simply can’t travel to emergencies in the prescribed times when called because of the distance they have to travel into Cornwall. I hear sirens wailing daily, but without any disclosure from the Chief or Service.
How does the public get a handle on what we’re actually paying for without real data to peruse?
And that’s actually the job of true media. We are supposed to ask the questions that sometimes may not make us popular with those that are abusing the system. We are the public’s only real line of defense, but when things become corrupt it makes our job more difficult.
Add pressures on some media outlets to toe the line or lose diminishing ad dollars and you have the situation here in Cornwall.
Some recent quotes and headlines regarding Councilor MacDonald, who simply has stated that the fire service needs to focus more on its direct mandate than areas which aren’t their mandate. Here is his most recent press release unedited. Sadly CFN was the only media outlet to run it unedited. The other local media did not.
The Fire Master Plan deals directly with our “needs” and this not one of them. This is one of a number of issues that should be addressed by the new FMP Committee.
The FMP points out very clearly that our citizens would be safer and better served if our fire service was meeting our basic “needs” under the FMP, rather than wasting time doing things that are not mandated. And since when does our fire service “need” a Medical Response Team Leader. This is going way beyond our legislative requirements.
At the present time, our fire service falls short, when it comes to meeting our very basic “need” regarding enough fire fighters responding to Moderate or High Risk calls. This fact alone should send up a huge red flag regarding putting our citizens and the Corporation at risk. We should be focusing on meeting our basic “needs” when it comes to safety of lives and property.
We are facing a huge tax increase this year, for various reasons, and all departments, not just fire, should be making this Council aware of areas that are EXCEEDING OUR LEGISLATIVE NEEDS.
It’s worthwhile to note that data from the FMP shows that the cost of fire protection services in Cornwall, per $1,000 of assessed property value, were 77.7% higher than comparable municipalities. The entire FMP is based on costs the community can afford, and it needs to implemented ASAP.
Mark A. MacDonald
Councillor, City of Cornwall
That seems pretty clear and forward. It doesn’t say the councilor is against certain areas such as the much hyped Fentanyl issue. An issue that the Chief Voisine feels that his force’s press releases on the issue should not be sent to the largest newspaper in this city. Can you imagine the blood on his hands if any CFN viewers die of an accidental Fentanyl overdose simply because his force did not share information with our viewers? Is that worthy behavior of a Sunshine list Fire chief or that of a petty political brat who’s simply used to making noise to get his way?
A quote from Freeholder Editor Hugo Rodrigues:
The fire department’s training was politicized by Cornwall Coun. Mark MacDonald, whose opinion is the fire service should apparently only respond to fire-related calls and nothing else.
Isn’t that splitting hairs? A politician politicizing something? Is alerting the public politicizing? As for the opinion part, Councilor MacDonald, when asked by CFN confirmed that he didn’t espouse that opinion. So why is the former President of the Canadian Association of Journalism allegedly playing footsie with the Councilors words and statements like he did with the POW Cornwall team where he published not once, but twice a statement, that the group was against the Clement Condo project when not a single word or any documentation or group statement stated such? When this writer, who’s part of the team, was asked by Hugo if we were in fact pro or against I asked him if perhaps that question should have been asked BEFORE publishing it as a statement twice?
Another outlet published the headline:
MacDonald ‘dangerously ignorant’ of opioid crisis: CPFFA
This statement was put out by the Firefighters Union. Again, is this about safety or cash? From the same piece:
President Luc Richer says the councillor “strangely characterizes” the fact firefighters will carry an antidote for overdoses as “wasting time” on the job.
Carrying Naloxone doesn’t require much training. We published videos of its use here on CFN. Again, this isn’t a debate on the subject; simply trying to impact someone’s integrity and character rather than defend a position.
Nasty politics indeed, but the question becomes is it the Union and its former head who’s now chief that are doing the politicizing or the politician who’s simply trying to live up to the pledge that helped get him elected by reducing taxes?
Holding services accountable is part of council’s job, no?
An even more inflammable headline written by Nick Sebruch bled:
Councillor says Fire Services “wasting time” with Naloxone kits
Nowhere in the story is the Councilor actually quoted with the term “Wasting time”
Councillor Mark MacDonald said that this was municipal time and money that could have been better spent.
“The Fire Master Plan (FMP) deals directly with our “needs” and this not one of them,” Councillor MacDonald said in an email. “This is one of a number of issues that should be addressed by the new FMP Committee. The FMP points out very clearly that our citizens would be safer and better served if our fire service was meeting our basic “needs” under the FMP, rather than wasting time doing things that are not mandated. And since when does our fire service “need” a Medical Response Team Leader. This is going way beyond our legislative requirements.”
The Councillor went on to say that Fire Services was exceeding its legislative needs, while failing to adequately meet basic needs.“At the present time, our fire service falls short, when it comes to meeting our very basic “need” regarding enough fire fighters responding to Moderate or High Risk calls,” he wrote. “This fact alone should send up a huge red flag regarding putting our citizens and the Corporation at risk. We should be focusing on meeting our basic “needs” when it comes to safety of lives and property.”
Again, look at how Chief Voisine is acting with this media outlet which simply have asked questions about the budget and asked for accountability? Asking for release of fire calls for the public interest should not put people’s lives at risk. Maybe it’s time for Pierre Voisine to find another calling as professional managers usually know that dealing with the media, and those that pay their salaries, is in fact part of the job?
Maybe the pendulum has swung too far in one direction when it comes to the fire services and the weight they seem to be throwing in Cornwall whenever someone calls their budget into question?
South Glengarry and the counties seem quite happy with their Volunteer Fire services and the rates they pay which is ironic as many of the Cornwall Fire service members live in the United Counties and are paying nothing close to the tax burden that Cornwall residents are forced to.
A half-century ago, nearly 50% of the calls coming into Toronto’s fire department were fires. That figure has dropped steadily: Last year, just 1% of about 150,000 recorded incidents were fires. Mirroring a countrywide trend, the bulk of calls were medical, with the remainder including false alarms, vehicle accidents, rescues and a host of other situations.
“Fire has twice the budget, but the largest majority of calls for service are for EMS,” notes the KPMG report, which contains a series of potential cost-saving measures to help fill Toronto’s $774-million budget hole. A merger, it suggests, could save up to 20% on the city’s budget for fire and EMS.
Toronto’s population has risen by more than one million people in the past half-century. Yet the number of fires has fallen, from 3,700 in 1960 to just 2,239 last year — a drop experts attribute to better building materials and fire-prevention measures.
Over that same time period, the number of employees at Toronto Fire Services has nearly tripled
While Cornwall has a higher rate of fires than some communities this trend deserves a discussion; especially at budget time and again, it highlights more of a reason for transparency from fire services.
“It doesn’t make sense to send four firefighters and a million-dollar pumper to a call that can be serviced by a single, highly trained paramedic,” Mr. Ferguson says.
This highlights why Cornwall has such a high cost rate for our fire services. Doesn’t what Mr. Ferguson states make sense, especially for a city of our size? Maybe instead of 64 firefighters we should cut down to 48 and add more resources to Paramedics?
A veteran Ontario Provincial Police officer glances in the rearview mirror of his parked cruiser as he jots down a few notes on an accident reporting form. Across the top, he writes: “Fire was told not to attend.”
He complains to the two strangers whose cars collided minutes ago on Highway 401 of his frustrations with Toronto Fire, who are also on scene.
He accuses the department of rushing to highway accidents unnecessarily, clogging the roads with massive fire trucks while offering little concrete assistance.
“We’re in a war with the fire department,” he says.
And ultimately we’re back to the cash question as Police, Fire and EMT all want bigger budgets, which is fine, but that’s why we elect council and hire managers, to manage our budgets. And when half of council elected signed a pledge to fight to not raise taxes where are their voices?
Why is Councilor MacDonald being allowed to be defamed and have his integrity challenged in this manner instead of the fire service simply being transparent and accountable?? Is it simply all about the Benajamins?
Alan Hills, acting co-ordinator of the pre-service firefighting program at Seneca College, says the clear “duplication of service” must be addressed swiftly.
“[We] need to be able to streamline the services to be able to give the best value for the taxpayer,” Mr. Hills says. “I think all three services — police, fire and ambulance — would agree that we could use our resources a lot better than we are now.”
This is a story about Toronto. Wouldn’t it even make more sense for a small city like Cornwall?
Toronto EMS Chief Paul Raftis says the need for ambulance services will rise exponentially in the coming years as the city’s population ages, placing a heightened burden on the already overtaxed health-care system.
Cornwall, with its higher rate of seniors is already here.
A key difficulty in the debate is the dearth of reliable data to indicate how often firefighters’ response to a call turns out to be unnecessary.
And that dear CFN viewers is why it’s important for transparency and accountability by all emergency services including our police service which refuses to give out call counts under Chief Dan Parkinson.
Ultimately all of these services are here to protect the public, but all need to be accountable and it’s up to City Hall to ensure we’re getting the best value for our public tax dollars.
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To read the National Post story in full click the LINK.
Voisine photo : social media