Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns has introduced a Private Member’s Bill that proposes increasing the tax credit for volunteer firefighters and search and rescue volunteers.
Johns introduced Bill C-264 on Thursday, Feb. 3 after thousands of constituents and people across Canada signed a petition calling for the tax credit to be increased. The bill would increase the tax credit for volunteers 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 in a press release. “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, is causing a strain on local volunteers.”
Under existing rules, volunteer firefighters and search and rescue 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. “Increasing tax credits for them shows that the federal government supports the work of local fire departments and search and rescue workers.”
Several fire departments have indicated their support for Johns’ bill.
“The role of a volunteer firefighter has dramatically changed over time, requiring certification and comprehensive skills maintenance,” said Lucas Banton, Fire Chief of the Cherry Creek Volunteer Fire Department. “Increasing this tax credit incentive would positively impact the long term retention of volunteer firefighters, thereby providing the necessary stability and experience in volunteer fire departments.”
“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.”