Nova Scotia’s volunteer fire services is demanding a federal carbon tax exemption as it faces evermore stringent budget constraints. 

The carbon tax added 14 to 17 cents per litre to the price of gas for Nova Scotians in July, with the price of propane and heating oil also increasing. 

President and treasurer for the Island & Barrington Passage Volunteer Fire Department Garnet Sullivan was perplexed as to why these expenses should be passed onto emergency services.  

“It’s a lot of money,” Sullivan told CBC News.  “Let’s say our ladder truck or our main pumper is out on a large call and we’re there for six or eight hours.… We burn a lot of fuel.” 

Sullivan’s department serves several nearby communities on the mainland as well as Cape Sable Island. While the kitchen at the firehall uses heat pumps, the firetruck bays are kept warm using oil heating. 

Both the municipalities of the District of Barrington and the Municipality of the District of Yarmouth have requested a carve-out exemption from federal carbon pricing for volunteer emergency services. 

“The Prime Minister has been clear that there will be no further exemptions for carbon pricing,” said Katherine Cuplinskas, a spokesperson for the deputy prime minister and minister of finance said in a statement.

The Trudeau government announced a pause on the federal carbon tax for home oil heating for the next three years in October – an exemption limited to residential properties and not fire halls. The move, prompted several other premiers to request a pause for gas and other forms of heating as well.

Most recently, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe announced that he directed SaskEnergy to stop collecting the carbon tax on electric heat altogether after Ottawa refused to cave to demands from the premiers. 

“In this area they raise money just to keep heating their halls, to fuel their trucks,” said president of the Yarmouth County Mutual Aid association Lynn Seeley. “Fundraising really shouldn’t go towards that kind of thing, in my opinion.” 

According to Seeley, fewer volunteers around to help with fundraising is another issue emergency services are facing, especially at a time when the cost of equipment has increased dramatically.

“I don’t think you can buy just a bare essentials [fire] engine today for under $500,000,” said Seeley. 

President of the Fire Service Association of Nova Scotia Greg Jones is calling on all levels of government to review how volunteer fire services are funded.

“We have a lot of fire services that do whatever they can with exactly what they have,” said Jones. 

Several of Canada’s largest cities have recently purchased electric fire trucks, however Jones said that is not an option for volunteer services due to the high expense. 

Transitioning vehicles used to fight wildfires from gas to electric is something that is currently being considered by the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources and Renewables. 

However, equipment from Sullivan’s department was lost while responding to the Shelburne County wildfire that broke out near Barrington Lake, an issue that is being resolved through community donations, which have helped to top up their budget for 2023. 

“Without that, we would have been going behind,” said Sullivan. 

Volunteer firefighters make up the majority of all firefighters in Canada.