Stiles, Ontario NDP demand immediate support to battle forest fires in Northern Ontario

Marit Stiles, Leader of the Official Opposition NDP and NDP MPPs Lise Vaugeois (Thunder Bay – Superior North) and Sol Mamakwa (Kiiwetinoong) demanded support and resources for forest fire workers during a press conference today addressing the severe and urgent crisis as wildfire season rages on amidst a retention and recruitment crisis.

“Forest fire crews have been doing incredibly difficult work this summer to keep all of us safe,” said Stiles. “But that work is made so much more difficult when this government is not respecting workers with honest wages and fair working conditions. Not only are crews struggling to recruit this year, but they’re also having trouble retaining experienced workers. That puts us in a dangerous position for next summer.”

“Northern Ontario has been heavily impacted by fire season this year, with many communities facing the threat or reality of evacuation,” said Mamakwa.

This year, Ontario is short 50 forest fire crews. According to OPSEU/SEFPO records, there are 120-150 fewer fire rangers this year than there were in 2019.

Not only has the province eliminated full-time positions in favour of precarious, short-term contracts, but the pay for forest fire workers has also dropped and is now significantly lower than for full-time firefighting work with municipalities in the south of the province. This has made recruitment significantly more difficult.

The 2023 wildfire season has shattered records. Canadian wildfires have already burned an area larger than Lakes Ontario, Erie and Michigan combined. Fifty fires are still burning across Ontario, many out of control.

“The climate crisis is here – you can see it today, and you can smell it in the air across Ontario,” said Vaugeois. “It’s time for Ford to respect the workers who are keeping us safe and helping to protect our way of life in the North.”

“Today, I am calling on Ford to reverse his cuts to forest fire crews and ensure workers receive fair compensation for their vital work,” said Stiles. “I call on him to increase the amount of permanent, full-time positions, to ensure workers get fair benefits, health care, and danger pay for working in these hazardous conditions.”

Ontario NDP