Decision process disappointing

Apparent secrecy cloaking fate of Okanagan Landing Fire Department disappoints

I am profoundly disappointed in Vernon City Council’s inept decision process regarding the fate of the Okanagan Landing Volunteer Fire Department.

The disappointment originates with the apparent secrecy cloaking the decision process itself (an in-camera session of city council), and is only exacerbated by the utterly embarrassing, dismissive, and disrespectful  press release broadcast on the local radio stations the very next day to announce the effective termination (i.e. non-renewal) of the city’s contract with the Okanagan Landing Volunteer Firefighters Association.

Is it too modern of me to notice that the art of the “thank you” seems to be fading?

The city’s press release said “…Vernon Fire Rescue …recognizes the valuable service and high level of dedication of the (Landing Volunteer Firefighters Association) during their contracts with the city.”

The sincerity of this statement is cast in some doubt, however, since the press release goes on to demonstrate the city’s recognition of this “valuable service” by terminating the contract, seizing the Landing Department’s new truck, demolishing the raison d’etre of the Landing Volunteer Association (fighting fires), and essentially forcing “all volunteer and career fire fighters into one cohesive fire fighting team”.

One may recall that in, I believe, 1965, Federal Defense Minister Paul Hellier severely demoralized the Canadian Military by a similar effort to create cohesive fighting forces. He did this by (1) eliminating the Canadian Navy, Army, and Air Force, (2) creating one “Canadian Armed Forces” with the same uniforms and no historical esprit de corps. The result was severe damage to the morale of the forces, the effects of which were well known for several years.

It is difficult to translate the city’s press release into normal human language since the prose used has the look, cadence and feel of the literary product of a person more accustomed to drafting bylaws and legal notices than thank you notes.

Had the city council summoned the courage, I hope they would have said to the Okanagan Landing Volunteer Firefighters Association:  “Thank you for your decades of commitment to fitness and weekly training, professional standards, dedication to your community, contribution of time and energy of you and your families. Thank you for your incredibly high level of standards and your willingness to go into harm’s way for the protection of strangers. Thank you for your contributions to the community in public service events far too numerous to mention.  Thank you for always being there, no matter what. You are inspirational for everyone and remind us all of the capability people have to be devoted to one another in safety and security.  Thank you.”

The rest of the city’s press release contains numerous speculative claims, the veracity of which is not readily verifiable.

If the poor quality of the city’s press release, and the inconsiderate and insensitive mode of dissemination of the decisions taken by council are exemplars of the quality of the analyses leading to the fire department shakeup, I do not think that any of us should have confidence that the speculative “economies of scale” and training efficiencies will be achieved.

John Stubbs, Vernon