With a growing sense of incredulity and anger, I have observed the ongoing grade-school antics between the Town of Taber council and the Municipal District of Taber council.
A shameful display on both sides to be sure, but it seems as if the M.D. is determined to take it to new lows as indicated by the last public bit of theatrics from the M.D.’s annual meeting. After sticking their collective thumbs in the eyes of the Taber Fire Department’s long serving volunteers, the M.D. continues to play fast and loose with the facts at the expense of taxpayers, volunteers and perhaps with people’s lives.
Despite repeated attempts to bring in minimum standards for Volunteer Firefighters at the provincial level, there are none in place. That is due mostly to rural councils (like the MD), resisting their adoption. So despite Councillor Wallace’s theatrical outburst at the annual meeting, all that is required to be a volunteer firefighter in the Province of Alberta is sadly a T-shirt and a radio (and a signed CWB form in most cases).
This was the case when I joined the local department which is administered and funded by the M.D. of Taber about 13 years ago. The Town of Taber department on the other hand has a vetting process, and a stringent training regimen which has been in place for many years, resulting in engaged, well-qualified firefighters eager to serve and continue to hone their skills.
During my time with my local department, I have advocated for more training and the implementation of standards at every opportunity, and have been stonewalled and actively derided by sitting councillors who asked “What do you need training for?” In fairness the M.D. has paid for the training I have received when I pursued it independently, but it was not something the M.D. actively encouraged. These are the same folks now saying that we should trust them to have a completely new Taber Fire Department staffed, trained and qualified in less than twelve months. No small feat considering their past history. Seems downright silly, considering there is a fully qualified, fully trained, experienced and equipped department just down the road…but it will save taxpayer money to have two departments right? Much has been made of the fact that the existing Taber department’s duty officers are paid to be on call, kind of ironic considering the money paid to M.D. councillors for meetings, mileage and such – how dare firefighters receive a pittance for potentially risking their lives?
The M.D. was also frothing at the mouth about the cost for a heavy rescue unit the town department was proposing to purchase.
Way more than was needed, the M.D. fumes. Yet anyone who has worked a rescue on the side of a busy highway knows that the rescue unit is providing a safety barrier between high-speed heavy traffic and firefighters trying to save a life, not a scenario where cheap is better, despite the M.D. council’s artificial thrift.
It seems as if the M.D. of Taber council had planned to wrest control of all fire response activities in the Taber area from the Town of Taber and, having been denied their quest for more power and control, took their ball and left the playground. As ratepayers, interested parties, and perhaps mature adults we should demand that they return to the table and work things out.
It would be the most sensible thing to do. Barring the common sense solution, perhaps we have to involve the Provincial Department of Municipal Affairs in order to put this right.