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Vancouver firefighters calling on next city council to ‘champion public safety’

IAFF Local 18 has been meeting with candidates and will announce endorsements closer to election day
The union representing Vancouver firefighters is calling on the city’s mayoral and council candidates to be “champions for public safety.” Photo Dan Toulgoet

The union representing Vancouver firefighters is calling on the city’s mayoral and council candidates to state their position on public safety.

“There’s a lot of competing issues in this civic election and it’s a strong belief that nothing is more important than public safety, as a city council your number one priority is to provide for a safe community for your citizens to live in,” said Lee Lax, a firefighter and chair of public engagement with IAFF Local 18. “We’re taking this opportunity to talk about the issue of public safety and have some pretty honest conversations with candidates to see where they stand.”

Lax said that as election day draws nearer the union will release a list of candidates it is endorsing and will likely make an announcement before advanced voting starts on Oct. 10.

“Throughout all of this year we’ve been engaging with candidates seeking office and getting them up to speed on the issues of public safety in Vancouver,” he said. “It is our goal to let the community know who really has their back when it comes to public safety and as we get a little closer to the election day we’ll provide the citizens of Vancouver a snapshot of where the candidates stand and who we believe will champion public safety in the next four years.”

In a press release issued Tuesday, Lax said that Vancouver has not kept up with the needs of providing emergency services to a growing city.

 “Vancouver has grown by more than 200,000 people over the last 30 years,” he said. “Yet, the City of Vancouver has failed to keep pace with the challenges of protecting a world class city. With the rapid redevelopment to a high risk city of high rises, there needs to be an immediate plan to add additional firefighters to Vancouver’s streets.”

Lax added that there were 18 more firefighters in the department in the mid-1980s than there is today, while the population has grown by 200,000 during that same time.

The press release notes that a 2017 report looking at the capabilities of the department showed that it’s at “significant risk as far as being able to provide enough firefighters at emergency scenes.” The union also raises concerns around the population growth that will come along with redevelopment plans for the Cambie Corridor and River District.

“What we’d like to see from the next city council and mayor is for them to champion public safety in Vancouver and be the voice asking staff to report back to them on what are the needs of public safety in Vancouver and what is our path forward to becoming a world class fire department,” he said.

Election day is Oct. 20.