The Regional District of Nanaimo will submit resolutions to the Union of BC Municipalities and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities calling for an increased tax exemption for volunteer firefighters and search and rescue personnel.
The resolutions to each respective body were passed by the board of directors May 23 and call for the B.C. government to raise the tax credit from $3,000 to $10,000 and the federal government’s tax exemption to the same.
“Firefighters that qualify for a tax credit receive a maximum of $2.25 per volunteer hour and increasing this tax credit would allow these essential volunteers to keep more of their hard-earned income from their main employment, likely benefiting the communities in which they live,” the resolution to FCM says.
“To go full time such as Nanaimo is great for the firefighters, but it comes at a great cost to the municipalities, so I just think it would be a really nice thank you to the men and women who serve in these roles,” Director Sean Wood of Parksville, who introduced the motion, said.
Currently, to claim the $3,000 volunteer firefighters’ amount or search and rescue volunteers’ amount, a volunteer must have completed at least 200 hours of eligible services in a year.
Training hours completed by volunteer firefighters alone represent a “significant commitment on behalf of our community,” Board Chair Vanessa Craig said.
The 100,000 volunteer firefighters in Canada account for 80 per cent of the country’s total firefighting first responders, according to the resolution, while 9,000 search and rescue volunteers respond to incidents annually.
On Gabriola, there are currently 38 firefighter positions, but the B.C. Office of the Fire Commissioner recommends 40. BC Search and Rescue Association, which represents ground search and rescue, says there are 3,400 volunteers across the province.
By Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter