Rumblings over the Bonnyville Regional Fire Authority (BRFA) being dismantled are heating up in the M.D. of Bonnyville. Reeve Greg Sawchuk is under fire for allegedly approaching BRFA Fire Chiefs about the possibility of severing firehouses from the authority and becoming independent. At least one fire chief is speaking out, however, the Reeve told Lakeland Connect the dismantling of the BRFA is in fact rumours.
On September 8, Lakeland Connect published a story about the vacant Kopala building and how we couldn’t get answers from the Reeve or the M.D. of Bonnyville about what status the project is at. Lakeland Connect interviewed the Reeve on September 20 to gain some answers.
One fire chief, whose name is being withheld for job protection, contacted Lakeland Connect and told us that Reeve Sawchuk “More or less, confirmed with me that the BRFA was supposed to be left intact, but I know for a fact that’s not quite true.”
The fire chief says he has had conversations with the Reeve in person and that “He wants to alter it from what we have. And quite frankly, we are the envy of Western Canada,” the chief told Lakeland Connect. “I talked with fire chiefs from across Western Canada.”
The chief says that anyone in the past who opposed Reeve’s decisions quickly found themselves in the unemployment line.
“I thought he would be good. He has become a mini dictator,” the chief said. “We have a municipal election coming up. Pay attention to who we’ve got and where they sit and what they have said and done. And I know that’s hard to find because they do so much behind closed doors which is not acceptable when they speak and represent and make decisions on behalf of me and the ratepayers of the MD. I will not name names but there’s two Councillors that is worth being there. The rest of them should be ashamed of what they have done during this term.”
The Reeve says there’s always a risk to rumours.
“Unless it happens up here with a clear motion, it hasn’t happened,” Reeve Sawchuk told Lakeland Connect. “And I would say that just because a question has been asked about one of those cans, and it being opened up that does not show what direction that you’re going to go again, you have to have a clear resolution, and that hasn’t been done in fact, the M.D has gone the opposite way, in their support of the BRFA.”
“There was over $4 million in new apparatus and equipment $1.3 million additionally committed to. We spent $5 million on two new buildings in Ardmore and Fort Kent which hopefully are going to open up soon,” Reeve Sawchuk said. “And that was in response to what we heard from the fire chiefs, the fire chiefs were saying because our administration was saying, you know, really, it’s only nine kilometers between Ardmore and Fort Kent you should only build one fire hall. We went against the administration’s advice, listening to the fire chiefs and caring about the hamlets. We recognize that recruitment as fire chiefs told us that that could be in jeopardy if you were to go to a single place, they could have lost some of their existing volunteers and pride in the hamlets, right, there’s something to be said for having a new shiny municipal building in your Hamlet, and in having that fire service right there.”
The Reeve says folks can see the volunteers out every Thursday night or whatever night they’re practicing.
“They can take pride in that. And it also affects their insurance rates. The M.D. also supported a health and wellness program for firefighters that hadn’t been had before. We also supported the mental health training, which is going on which I hold near and dear to my heart, coming from the military,” Reeve Sawchuk said. “I’m well aware of PTSD. And the issues that our first responders have to deal with, and I’m still fully in support of that. Another initiative that was brought forward by a concern, from one of our fire chiefs was emergency livestock handling. We just ran out of course and we’re moving towards the full implementation of that. And, and then, of course, let’s not forget the BRFA BBQ that we put some money into to ensure that BRFA has a presence at our local events.”