Remarks by Minister Goodale at the International Association of Fire Fighters Conference


April 10, 2017

Check Against Delivery

Good morning everyone.

Greetings and good wishes from Prime Minister Trudeau and the Government of Canada.

I am delighted to attend another IAFF Legislative Conference— thank you for inviting me.

Our government is about 18 months into our first mandate. Throughout that “young” tenure, we have been focused on our core commitments to Canadians about the economy.

In Opposition and during the last federal election campaign, we made crystal clear our belief that Canada’s biggest economic problem was a distinct lack of sustained and sustainable economic growth.

For much of the past decade, the country was limping along with a sluggish growth rate on average of less than 1.5 % per year.

And that’s just not good enough to generate the jobs and the incomes necessary to meet the needs of the middle class and all those working hard to get there.

So we set about investing in the things that will drive more growth, more jobs and more money in the pockets of ordinary Canadians.

We cut middle class taxes – benefiting some 9 million Canadians.

We created a new, larger, targeted and tax-free Canada Child Benefit – 9 out of 10 families are getting more financial support every month and 300,000 kids are being lifted out of poverty.

For seniors – we’re improving the OAS, the GIS and the CPP and we’re strengthening Medicare.

We’ve increased federal support for students and higher education.

We’re investing more in innovation and productivity.

And we’re driving growth by renewing and expanding Canada’s public infrastructure:

  •  streets, roads, bridges and highways
  • Transit systems
  • Affordable housing, child care and facilities for seniors
  • Water and wastewater projects
  •  Resilient infrastructure to withstand climate change
  • New export corridors to market Canada to the world.

Altogether, we’ll be investing $180 billion in new Canadian infrastructure of all kinds over the next 12 years.

It’s the simple most cost effective way to drive jobs and growth, and is it financially responsible? Yes, indeed!

  • Because Canada’s debt rate is the best in the G-7;
  • Because interest rates are low and the investments now will never be more affordable; and
  • Because Canada needs the growth from these investments to help balance the nation’s books in the years ahead.

Our plan for investing in the drivers of growth is beginning to show signs of success. It took a few months to gain traction but the results are now accelerating:

  • More than 270,000 new jobs have been generated;
  • The vast majority are full time;
  • The unemployment rate has come down;
  • We seem to have turned an important corner in the energy sector, and
  • Canada’s economic growth is now headed back toward 2.5 or 3% annually.

Within my portfolio of Public Safety, we continue to ride the fire hose of turbulent events from day to day.

In everything we do, we have two overarching goals:

  • To keep Canadians safe; and
  • To safeguard our precious rights and freedoms and the open, generous and inclusive character of our country.

We’re also making progress on our agenda for First Responders.

On the labour front, we said we would repeal legislation that unfairly targeted unions – Bills C-377 and C-525.

Our bill to roll back these two measures is now meeting final passage in the Senate, and it will soon be done.

We said we would continue to support the IAFF in delivering critical Hazardous Materials training for firefighters nationwide.

And we’re following through on that commitment, with $1 million dollars over two years to make sure this training continues.

The agreement between the IAFF and the Government of Canada was signed just last week.

This will mean strengthened capacity to deal with emergencies for firefighters across the country, both professional and volunteer.

It will mean enhanced interoperability between trained first responders in Canada.

And for Canadians, it will mean even greater reassurance that their health and safety are protected from dangerous HazMat situations.

We also said we would restore funding for Canada’s Heavy Urban Search and Rescue Teams. We’ve done that.

Federal HUSAR funding will help rescue teams from the strategic bases to respond to building collapses, mudslides, floods, wildfires and other disasters, as the Calgary and Brandon Task Forces did so well in Fort McMurray.

We’ve also moved forward on a public safety officer compensation benefit.

When I put this idea before the House of Commons five years ago, MPs voted to pass my motion.

And today, I’m pleased to say that through Budget 2017, the Government will invest $80 million over five years to support the establishment of a tax-free Public Safety Officer Award.

It will recognize of the ultimate sacrifice of public safety officers who have given their lives in the line of duty.

Behind this investment is a very basic principle.

The Government must stand with the men and women who risk their lives to keep us safe and with the families when tragedy strikes.

We also share the understanding that Canadians must do more to support the health and safety of public safety officers.

As you know, we have been working on a coordinated action plan to address Post-Traumatic Stress Injuries.

We understand the deep and complex impact that PTSIs can have on those suffering, their families and friends.

We have held roundtable discussions on the matter, as part of an inclusive, national conversation, and to make sure we had your input.

We started a tri-services advisory committee, made up of representatives from firefighting, police and paramedic professional organizations, to support a collaborative approach on PTSI.

We also heard directly from many public safety officers, as well as from health care practitioners and all levels of government.

Together we need to find the best ways to increase support for prevention and early intervention, research and public awareness, support for diagnosis, care and treatment. And we need to combat the stigma that keeps PTSI in the shadows and unaddressed.

So we will continue to work closely with leaders in the public safety community like the IAFF, as well as our federal, provincial and territorial partners, to identify options for moving forward on the PTSI Action Plan.

Let me close with a brief mention of another area of on-going work—and that’s your request to have “firefighter safety” mentioned as an “objective” in the National Building Code.

This was another item included in my Motion to Parliament a few years ago.

I have raised your concerns with the NRC. The Minister (Kirsty Duncan) is examining the issue.

I would suggest you should meet with Kirsty. I think you will find her both interested and receptive.

The key is to advance the most compelling science and evidence-based arguments to support your case.

I will be happy to support you in every way I can.

I want to thank you for your service.

In a portfolio that must deals with some difficult and deadly issues – the “upside” for me is having the opportunity to work closely with courageous, skillful people like you.

You have the gratitude and admiration of all Canadians.

Thank you!

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