Gord Johns has introduced a Private Member’s Bill to increase the tax credit for volunteer firefighters, and search and rescue volunteers. File photo

Gord Johns has introduced a Private Member’s Bill to increase the tax credit for volunteer firefighters, and search and rescue volunteers. File photo

Courtenay-Alberni MP introduces bill to benefit volunteer firefighters, search and rescue workers

Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns introduced Thursday a Private Member’s Bill to increase the tax credit for volunteer firefighters, and search and rescue volunteers.

He introduced Bill C-264 after hearing from thousands of constituents and people across Canada who signed a petition calling for this tax credit to be increased. The bill would increase the credit from $3,000 to $10,000. Under existing tax rules, this equates to about $450 per year, or $2.25 per volunteer hour worked.

“Small towns and cities across the country, including many communities right here in Courtenay-Alberni, depend on volunteers to provide emergency services,” said Johns. “They’re often putting their lives at risk to pull someone from a burning home or rescue a family friend who has gone missing. Responding to a growing number of first responder calls, including being on the front lines of the opioid epidemic, causes a strain on local volunteers.”

Volunteer firefighters account for 83 per cent of essential first responders in Canada. Approximately 8,000 search and rescue volunteers respond to thousands of incidents every year. Under existing rules, volunteers would have to put in at least 200 hours a year with their local fire department, or recognized search and rescue organizations to be eligible for the tax credit.

“The cost of living has increased, and local departments are struggling to recruit volunteers to meet the needs of the community,” added Johns.

Several local fire departments have indicated their support for Johns’ bill.

“Recruitment and retention is one of our greatest challenges with a volunteer service. Over the last decade, communities have faced a decline in those who are willing to step up and volunteer to help their fellow citizens,” said Don Bardonnex, Fire Chief for the City of Courtenay. “An increase in the volunteer tax credit would most certainly assist our recruitment and retention challenge that we face today.”

“Presenting a bill like this is a privilege,” said Johns. “Providing increased benefits to first responders in our communities is crucial to better support our communities.”

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