‘It’s nice to get a thank you’: Sask. introduces volunteer firefighter tax credit
Being a volunteer first responder in Balgonie, Sask., is a major part of Doug Lapchuk’s life. He handles both fire and emergency medical calls, in addition to being president of the Saskatchewan Volunteer Fire Fighters Association (SVFFA).
With more than 20 years of service to his name, Lapchuk sees the province introducing a volunteer first responder tax credit in their 2019-20 budget as a thank you to Saskatchewan’s more than 7,000 volunteers.
“A lot of us who do volunteer service, volunteer firefighters, aren’t in it for the accolades and certainly not for the money,” Lapchuk said.
“So it’s nice to get a thank you, and in my estimation, that’s what this is.”
The $3,000 non-refundable tax credit is for volunteer personnel with more than 200 hours of service in a year. Lapchuk said this mirrors the federal tax credit, and the amount of hours is easily attainable for the average volunteer.
In addition to seeing the credit as thank you, Lapchuk is hopeful it can help encourage more people to sign up with their local volunteer fire department.
“A lot of our communities in our province are starting to lose population due to jobs, or lack thereof, or people not wanting to remain in small towns,” Lapchuk said. “So it always becomes a challenge to have volunteer firefighters that are younger.”
Lapchuk added he didn’t want to make it seem like the shortage is an “epidemic,” but recruitment can be a challenge.
From the provincial side, Finance Minister Donna Harpauer said that she is happy to see this 2016 election promise through after delaying it due to tight budgets.
She added that the Humboldt Broncos bus crash amplified the need to introduce the tax credit.
“Because of that incident I think the entire province has realized more than ever the extreme importance of those volunteers out in our rural areas,” Harpauer said Wednesday.
In addition to the tax credit, Lapchuk said he is encouraged by nearly $30 million in new spending being added to mental health care. He hopes some of it moves into PTSD treatment program.
“It makes it easy for our people; volunteer, career, any firefighter, any emergency responder. If that money helps them access definitive helper quicker then that’s a bonus,” Lapchuk said.
“What people have to remember is what we see you never unsee. You can close your eyes, to this day I can close my eyes and recall just about any of the fatals that I’ve been to in 20-plus years of volunteer fire service.”
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