Forest fighters treated unfairly

Each year in British Columbia, forest firefighters undertake challenging, perilous, and strenuous tasks under demanding circumstances. Last year was notably tragic, with six forest firefighters losing their lives in the line of duty. These facts are well-known, especially to those living in or near interface areas, where the risk of forest fires is widely recognized.

What isn’t well known is despite the demanding work environment, that forest firefighters are currently not included in the list of Public Safety Occupations (PSOs) under the income tax regulations.

What does this imply? Individuals listed as public safety occupations (PSOs) can retire early at age 50 and contribute 2.33% annually to their pension. At present, forest firefighters are categorized as silviculture and forestry workers. For these workers, the minimum retirement age is set at 55, and the maximum pension accrual rate is capped at 2% per annum.

At present, firefighters in local and regional locations, airports, and industrial and shipboard environments are included in the Priority Occupation List (POL) as defined by the Government of Canada’s National Occupational Classification (NOC). However, forest firefighters are not included.

As the Conservative Official Opposition, we believe it’s time to change this. Our common sense solution is to amend the National Occupational Classification (NOC) list to include ‘forest firefighter’ under the definition of ‘firefighter’. This amendment would enable forest firefighters to access the pension benefits that other firefighters receive in recognized Public Safety Occupations.

In the Okanagan, Similkameen, and Nicola Valleys, we are extremely fortunate to have many dedicated and experienced forest firefighters. They work tirelessly each year to protect homes, other structures, animals, and most importantly, lives right across the province.

In my opinion, this is a modest but important change that acknowledges the importance of our forest firefighters’ work. This issue transcends partisan concerns, which is why I’m pleased to report that the Liberal Government has announced its intention to adopt our proposal. However, as of writing, it has not been implemented for this year’s forest fire season, which would allow forest firefighters to start saving for their retirement like other firefighters.

My question this week: do you agree that this Conservative proposal should be implemented immediately? Why or why not?

I can be reached at or call toll-free 1-800-665-8711.