Madam Speaker, I rise to praise the motion placed before the House today by the hon. member for Haldimand-Norfolk. I share totally his views about the great job done by volunteer firefighters. They are a dedicated, hard-working group of people to whom all of us owe a great debt.
In my riding of Capilano-Howe Sound several communities rely heavily on the work of volunteers. In Squamish, 55 volunteers complement a core of six full time firefighters. Pemberton and Lions Bay rely entirely on 20 volunteers for their protection from fire.
In the beautiful resort community of Whistler, 11 professionals rely on the help of 36 volunteers. I feel particularly close to this group because I have attended their annual ball. These people not only know how to have fun, they also show their dedication to public welfare by using the occasion to raise substantial funds for charity. I feel closer also to these Whistler firefighters because I have seen them in action when they took care of a chimney fire in the house of one of my neighbours. Hearing the roar of such a fire in the stillness of a snowy winter evening is an unforgettable experience. Seeing their professionalism in dealing with this inferno has made me an eternal fan of theirs.
I would also like to tell you, Madam Speaker, that Whistler is a very dry and hot place in the summer. Trees and bushes grow between the many wooden houses. I have often descended into the valley on the chair lift and was very uneasy thinking about the scene before me, how easily a small fire could spread through the community, leaping from house to house through the low brush, fanned by the famous Squamish winds. The property damage would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. There would be great risks for people and animals. However I find myself reassured by the knowledge that the large contingent of very competent firefighters is there, quickly and at all times, to deal with any small fire before it erupts into a major conflagration.
At any rate, I hope that they will forever be able to maintain the enviable record they have established during the 30-year history of the Whistler community. No fire has ever gone out of control.
The professional and volunteer firefighters in my riding can be counted on, not just to fight fires, but to provide valuable services in all kinds of other emergencies. Just a couple of weeks ago they had to use the jaws of life to free from a car a severely injured motorist and two others. Their efforts came too late for the two who died in the accident.
The Whistler firefighters are superbly skilled in their task. Last year they won first place in a provincial competition testing their rescue skills. They are about to enter this competition again and I wish them the best of luck.
I support the idea that the federal government should make a solid contribution to the well-being of these dedicated people. They save citizens local taxes which would have to be raised if they were to be replaced by professionals.
Therefore It seems very fitting that the private member's motion being discussed should urge the government to raise the amount of fees which are freed from taxation. However, given the government's current financial conditions, members must be very vigilant not to add to the deficit. In this spirit, I therefore suggest that the proposal be modified to make it less costly. I propose that the government raise the allowance annually by the increase in the consumer price index, using the $500 limit in 1980 as a base. In my view this approach would be fair and I am sure that it would be acceptable as such to the volunteer firefighters who make such great contributions to public welfare.
The sentiments which I have expressed are not just mine. They are also shared by my hon. colleagues from the Reform caucus, in particular those representing the following ridings: Prince George-Bulkley Valley; Kindersley-Lloydminster; Fraser Valley East; Kootenay East; Nanaimo-Cowichan; Okanagan-Shuswap; Macleod; Saanich-Gulf Islands; Lisgar-Marquette; Yellowhead; Athabasca; Surrey-White Rock- South Langley; Okanagan Centre; Surrey North; Calgary Southeast; Okanagan-Similkameen-Merritt; Wild Rose; Lethbridge; Red Deer; and Calgary Northeast.