A motion to add $7.7 million dollars to the proposed fire services budget was struck down Thursday night at city council. Councillors voted instead to add almost $2 million — enough to save one truck.
For two days, members of the Toronto Firefighters Association lined the gallery of the council chamber, hoping their presence would influence the decision about their futures.
Toronto city council began debating the $9.6 billion dollar budget Wednesday. The new budget includes major cuts to fire services. The original proposal was to eliminate five fire trucks and 84 positions.
“If they go ahead with the potential cuts which they have on the table right now… it’s going have a significant impact on the citizens of Toronto,” Ed Kennedy, president of the Toronto Fire Fighters Association, told reporters Wednesday.
Kennedy and over 50 firefighters sat through the entire council proceedings, hoping the motion that would have added $7.7 million dollars to the fire budget would be passed.
“We know citizens are willing to pay for their emergency services. They don’t want their fire services cut,” Kennedy said. “To maintain the level of service we’ve had, the cost is just over two cents a day. You’re looking at about eight dollars a year.”
Council was divided on the proposal, and spent the majority of Wednesday morning grilling Fire Chief Jim Sales.
“If council supports this budget, there won’t be any impacts to fire staff in any way,” Sales told council.
Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti disagreed with Sales, arguing that what he was saying did not reflect what the Firefighters Association wanted.
“Rarely have you heard anything from the fire association or firefighters, and they’re very patient,” Coun. Mammoliti said. “They’re telling us directly that we’re putting people in jeopardy.”
By late Thursday evening, the motion was struck down by a vote of 29–16, meaning that four trucks and 84 positions will be eliminated in the new fiscal year. Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly managed to save one truck on a separate proposal. Kelly’s plan to add $1.99 million to the budget was passed 39-6.
Supporters of the original motion and members from the Firefighters Association were not satisfied with only one truck being saved.
“It’s going to increase response times,” Kennedy said, adding that last year’s report showed cuts would mean a 63 second delay in service times. “In our business, seconds count.”