By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express
The day following a regional vote last month to send the question of commissioning a study to amalgamate fire services across the region being sent back to the municipalities, Regional Chair Roger Anderson sent a letter to local fire chiefs and firefighter associations urging them to participate in the lower tier studies.
And Councillor Nancy Diamond says that went too far.
“I am deeply concerned about the principles that caused that lengthy discussion at the last council meeting. The region has no authority over fire. Lower tier municipalities have that authority. So, I am concerned if the region is…being asked to now prepare something to coordinate (with a regional study on fire amalgamation). The lower tier municipalities must first authorize and agree to doing a study, and then the process continues,” Diamond said in council chambers at the latest meeting of regional council. “I would question you sir on your authority to urge them to urge their lower tier councils when, as you just said, this council, the day before had said local councils would decide.”
Anderson, in response, said he didn’t see what the problem was.
“I asked your fire chief and your association to urge your local council to participate in that study. What’s the problem?”
Diamond replied that Anderson was out of bounds, with the region interfering with the authority of the lower tier municipalities.
“When you ask lower tier staff to lobby their council after this body determined that it was, indeed, a lower tier responsibility. I’m uncomfortable about that kind of lobbying,” she responded.
Diamond added that she felt Anderson was painting the public conversation of the subject of fire amalgamation as one that needed to be uploaded as soon as possible, citing a local radio interview the regional chair gave.
“Then I heard (Anderson) on the local radio give a very cavalier interview, speaking to ‘Well in Oshawa they could have a fire station at Rossland and Stevenson and two blocks into Whitby, there’d be another station.’ You made no mention of existing mutual aid agreements, automatic aid agreements, that all the co-operation…” she said before being cut off by Anderson.
“Mr. Chairman, you were presenting it as though not only is there no coordination among our local municipal fire departments, but they don’t even communicate when indeed there are complex, existing agreements to achieve efficiency and to provide skilled service,” she continued.
Diamond later told The Oshawa Express she expects the matter of deciding to go forward with the study will come up at the municipal level within the next week or so.