“This is public service at its finest. These frontline workers are travelling away from their homes and their families, potentially putting themselves in harm’s way, in order to help others in their time of need." — Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President
Toronto (23 May 2019) — Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) says the roughly 85 firefighters and support staff from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) who will be in Alberta helping battle wildfires in Alberta are doing OPSEU/NUPGE and Ontario proud.
OPSEU/NUPGE members headed to Alberta
“This is public service at its finest,” said Thomas. “These frontline workers are travelling away from their homes and their families, potentially putting themselves in harm’s way, in order to help others in their time of need."
“I know I’m speaking for OPSEU’s entire Executive Board and all of our 155,000 members when I say: thank you and stay safe," said Thomas.
The MNRF workers, including fire crew and support staff from across the province, will head to Alberta on Friday, May 24, for at least one 14-day deployment.
Public service worker: Help where the help is needed
There are currently dozens of wildfires burning in Alberta, at least 5 of them are out of control. In the province’s north west, one of those fires is raging close to communities. 5,000 people have been ordered to leave their homes in the Dene Tha’ First Nation and the nearby town of High Level.
“We were all horrified when wild fires ripped through Fort McMurray 3 summers ago. Our members want to do whatever we can to make sure that doesn’t happen again,” said Len Sedore, President of OPSEU Local 623. “Besides, frontline fire crews and support staff came to Ontario last summer when we had twice the number of wildfires than the summer before."
“That’s what frontline public service workers do: help where help is needed," said Sedore.
More fires due to climate change, politicians ignoring need to act
Fire experts say the number and size of wildfires have been increasing dramatically across the country over the past 30 years, likely because of warming temperatures and drier summer conditions caused by climate change.
“We’ve already had extreme flooding across Ontario and now these fires in Alberta are giving us a taste of what we might have to deal with all summer long,” said Thomas. “Climate change is real and it’s taking a real toll."
“But what’s our government doing about it? Printing gas-pump stickers and buying millions of dollars of TV ads trying to convince us that we don’t have to act,” said Thomas. “While politicians like Doug Ford and Jason Kenney just bury their heads in the tar sands, OPSEU/NUPGE members are rushing in to help.”
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE