Into the fire
By Chad Ingram
Published June 15, 2017
There was some fiery conversation in Minden Hills council chambers last week.
The discussion was about whether council should be instituting performance reviews for members of the township’s volunteer fire department.
While some councillors believed such a process should be enacted, others felt it was unnecessary.
Councillor Pam Sayne called it micromanaging of the township’s fire department, and she is spot on.
Instituting performance reviews for the township’s volunteer firefighters is a bad idea for a few reasons.
First, it’s completely unneeded. Members of the Minden Hills fire department already have their skills assessed by the township’s training officer, a professional firefighter. It’s difficult to imagine there is a greater authority on firefighting within the roster of the municipality.
The initiation of a performance review process in addition to this would imply a distrust in the abilities of the fire training officer and the township’s fire chief.
It also stands to alienate the members of the fire department, who voluntarily give their time, which, in some cases, means risking their lives. As fire chief Doug Schell pointed out last week, recruitment can be difficult enough without another level of assessment adding undue stress to members.
The county’s other municipalities, it might be noted, do not conduct such reviews for their volunteer firefighters.
There was some discussion last week about whether volunteer firefighters should be considered volunteers or employees. While they are volunteers, they are also compensated for attending calls, and have responsibilities that far outweigh those of somebody baking pies for a community hall fundraiser.
However, in this case, whether firefighters should be categorized as volunteers or employees is moot. If they are volunteers, then there is no need for them to be subjected to a formalized performance review process. If they are employees, then they should be assessed by the department head – the fire chief – and township’s training officer. Which they already are.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, council shouldn’t be sticking its proverbial proboscis where it doesn’t belong, which is what it would be doing with the creation of this policy. Council inserting itself where it doesn’t belong caused a lot of trouble in Minden Hills during the previous term. It would be unfortunate if current councillors began repeating the mistakes of their predecessors.