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FORUM: Firefighter comments political or factual?

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I would like to respond to Melissa Wiklund’s letter to the Editor entitled “City responds to firefighters union ads” dated Sept. 26.

What are we to make of her extravagant claim that the current level of service of the Corner Brook Fire Department is higher than that of hundreds of municipalities across Canada, when she offers no supporting evidence for the claim?

In light of the recommendations of the POMAX Report her confidence in the service level of the Corner Brook Fire Department — which she describes as acceptable, suitable and appropriate — is astounding.

The POMAX Report is of great significance for a number of reasons. First, it confirms what has been public knowledge about response times and numbers of firefighters on a shift since 2012.

The problems in the fire service are much deeper than perhaps Ms. Wiklund realizes and pre-dates her time with the city by many years, while the implementation of the recommendations of the Cuff Report eroded the capacity of the fire department.

There is nothing in the POMAX Report that an individual would not be able to discover by intelligent research. But what the POMAX Report clearly sets out is the difficulty the City has in responding to a fire and, therefore, there is no excuse for the impression her letter is intended to create.

Secondly, the release of the POMAX Report to the public has been unconscionably late when one considers that the high priority recommendations contained in it were expected to be implemented in the first quarter of 2017.

I do not take this to be an example of the city operating in good faith, or meeting its commitments to either the fire department or the residents. Indeed, one would not be able to describe the inaction of City management with respect to the POMAX Report as a sign of good faith or a willingness to take responsibility — quite the reverse.

Furthermore, if Ms. Wiklund’s purpose in writing the letter was to counter support for binding arbitration as expressed by IAFF 1222 — what she referred to as “misleading information.” I fail to see how she achieved this.

Moreover, I am sure that she is well aware that the purpose of the IAFF 1222 ads and other news items was to provide the public with information on binding arbitration in the run-up to the municipal election in Corner Brook.

However, the problematic content of her letter and its timing demonstrates very poor judgment in what can be construed as an attempt at political interference in a municipal election.

I say this because her letter is a piece of polemic and in this context is political because she did not counter any of the information put forward by the IAFF 1222. Rather, she artlessly tried to create a sense of security by deflecting the attention of the reader to mainly one aspect of fire protection — that is, equipment.

She described breathing apparatus and face shields as “state of the art” and a digital radio system as “cutting edge” when the use of such clichés obscures the reality that this equipment is simply current standard issue.

In her attempt to reassure the residents of the city over fire safety, she did not respond to the issue of binding arbitration raised by the Corner Brook firefighters union. Now this is truly astonishing!

It is my opinion that she has undermined her own professional credibility by entering the election debate in such a way as to provide tacit support for the incumbent councillors.

This is a very serious matter indeed given her position as city manager.

 

Michael Taylor writes from Corner Brook.

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