Thirteen years ago, I introduced a controversial Private Member’s Bill to support
“two hatter” firefighters in the Ontario Legislature.
Typically, two hatter firefighters work as full time professional firefighters with a
city department, but may live in a small town nearby. On their days off, they offer
to serve as part time firefighters in their home communities. Their skills and
training strengthen the capability of many of our small town fire departments.
The firefighters’ union’s constitution has a section which prohibits two hatting. In
some cases, two hatters have been told they must quit their part time service in
their home towns, or face expulsion from their union. This is a very serious
threat, as collective agreements often stipulate that professional firefighters must
be members in good standing of their unions in order to be employed full time.
For firefighters to be kicked out of the union might mean the loss of their full time
When this issue was brought to my attention in 2002, I quickly concluded that the
need for community safety in small town Ontario and the freedom to volunteer on
a person’s free time should come ahead of an obscure clause in a union
constitution that was clearly not in the public interest. I decided to introduce a Bill
to protect two hatters.
Eventually, we received expressions of support from the Fire Fighters’
Association of Ontario (representing volunteer firefighters), the Association of
Fire Chiefs of Ontario, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, and the Fire
Marshal of Ontario.
My Bill to provide legislated protection for two hatters received more hours of
debate than any other Private Member’s Bill in the history of the Ontario
Legislature. Unfortunately, it was defeated on a Third Reading vote on December
How is all of this relevant today?
Earlier this month, on October 8th, the Legislature started debating the
Government’s Bill 109. This Bill appears to show that the Government is now in
favour of the kind of legislated protection for two hatter firefighters we fought so
hard to put in pace thirteen years ago.
If Bill 109 passes into law, it will be good news for public safety in rural and small
After the longest federal election campaign in memory, a new House of
Commons has finally been elected.
I want to congratulate our re-elected Member of Parliament, Mike Chong. I look
forward to continuing our work together on behalf of our mutual constituents in
All of the candidates who sought public office deserve credit for demonstrating
the courage of their convictions and putting their names on the ballot.
Many in our Riding volunteered and worked very, very hard to support their
preferred candidate. Others worked at the polls for Elections Canada. They all
have our sincere thanks.
Now, it is up the elected MPs to gather in Ottawa, and seek to act in the best
interest of their constituents, and the country as a whole.
Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott welcomes your comments. He can be
reached at 1-800-265-2366. His website address is www.tedarnottmpp.com.