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Time for OFS to open the doors

(Cartoon by George Longley)

The Oshawa Fire Service is one of the most critical aspects of our municipal services. The fire fighters are tireless crusaders responsible for saving countless lives on an annual basis and the senior officials behind the organization are crucial figures in keeping all citizens of this city safe. However, the recent debate surrounding fire response in this city has highlighted a few troublesome habits.

The City of Oshawa, historically, has not been the most forthcoming of organizations when it comes to providing residents with information, especially when it comes to sensitive matters. The pages of this newspaper have detailed the struggle of local residents attempting to shed further light on the scandal-plagued purchase of 199 Wentworth Street, and reporters for The Oshawa Express have repeatedly received Freedom of Information request quotes asking for thousands of dollars for information.

This perhaps points to a much larger issue with access to information laws as a whole, but it seems the trend of keeping the walls up around certain information has also spread to the OFS.

It’s inexcusable for OFS to refuse to provide call-date and response time information to the Oshawa Professional Fire Fighters Association, and the lack of response from the OFS on the critical questions being put forward by the union is troubling.

Canned comments and glowing press releases do nothing but insult the intelligence of members of this city who realize that this information is only a bright attempt to shine light elsewhere, away from the real issues.

And recently a few of those issues have come to light as it turns out the city has not hired an additional inspector for OFS along with a number of other recommendations made in their 2013 Fire Master Plan that were meant to be completed in the first five years of the plan.

Now, these missteps are not to be placed at any one person’s feet. OFS has admittedly seen its fair share of turnover in senior positions over the last five years, with the retirement of a longtime chief, then the hiring of another who only stuck around for the blink of an eye. The city has also seen turnover in both deputy chief positions in that time as well.

However, many of those who have filled these senior positions were appointed from inside the OFS and should have been well aware that these issues and these recommendations made in the 2013 master plan were looming over the organization, but have done little to rectify them.

It’s good to see that the OFS has acknowledged that a review is now underway. It is the first bit of information the fire service has released to signal they may actually be hearing the voices that are shouting at them from outside of city hall.

With that said, it’s time they take another step outside those walls and assist in this much needed review being requested by the union.

Our city is growing, and so are the risks, and keeping the doors closed is not going to change that.