Frank Klees

Frankly Speaking

Frankly Speaking
An article by Frank Klees, MPP
As published in the Auroran

September 11, 2012

An Act to Proclaim May 1st as First Responders Day in Ontario

On Thursday, September 27th, I will be bringing forward my Private Member's Bill  entitled, An Act to Proclaim May 1st as First Responders Day in Ontario.

I want to share with you why I am dedicating my Private Member's Bill to the First Responders in our province, and the circumstances that inspired the concept of setting aside a day in their honour.

The Impact of the Ornge Air Ambulance Scandal

My role on the Committee investigating the Ornge Air Ambulance scandal has brought me face to face with the darkest side of human nature. The evidence is overwhelming that those entrusted with leadership and oversight responsibilities became the architects of a culture of greed, intimidation and incompetence. A vision to create a state-of-the-art, life-saving air ambulance service was turned into a nightmare that put patients at risk and wasted millions of scarce healthcare dollars and put hundreds of front line emergency healthcare workers into untenable positions.

But it also became clear, through hundreds of hours of testimony - many from courageous, front line paramedics and pilots, that the greed that had engulfed the executive suites at Ornge, had no place among the dedicated professionals who had committed their lives to the high calling of emergency response. In fact, not a day goes by when I don't get a call or an email from one of those front line staff expressing appreciation for the fact that the rot at the top of the Ornge organization is being exposed. More important, is the practical advice they offer concerning what must be done to restore confidence in the air ambulance service to which they are so committed.

True Tales of Courage and Compassion

Following a week at Queen's Park where the Ornge file preoccupied much of my time, I was looking forward to turning my mind to the constituency issues that were set out on my desk. Beside the set of files that provide the background on the meetings for the day, was a book that I hadn't seen before. The cover pictured three scarlet tablets, each with a number imprinted in black... 9-1-1. Below the numbers, the words..... True Tales of Courage and Compassion.

The book had been delivered to my office by its author, Newmarket resident Vali Stone. 

Police, firefighters, paramedics, dispatchers, nurses, doctors, men and women of our military services were asked to share their personal stories of the most memorable incidents in the course of carrying out their duties. These are ordinary people who are called on to do extraordinary things every day of their lives. In these 164 pages, they reveal that they are subject to the same physical, mental and emotional limitations as the rest of us.

In the words of veteran police officer Brent Pilkey, " There are many cops like me who walk around hurting and hide their feelings because they are here to protect the public, solve problems, uphold the law and be the strength and backbone of society . We are tough. We take people to hospitals - we don't go there ourselves. We don't feel. We don't break down." But break down they do, and while it's rare that we get a glimpse into the struggles and the suffering that results from the daily stress of being the "first on the scene", I highly recommend that you add this book to your reading list.

Vali Stone and her book confirmed for me, that the heroes among us - the police officers, firefighters, paramedics, medevac pilots, nurses, dispatchers and those who serve in our military, deserve to be recognized for their selfless service to our communities and our province. " It would be honorable that Ontario recognizes a day for First Responders" said Ms Stone in a note enclosed with her book. " I'm hoping society will find the needed admiration and support towards responders as well as their families that they so deserve."

I agree, and on September 27th, the Ontario Legislature will have the opportunity to demonstrate that support by entrenching May 1st of every year as First Responders Day in Ontario. I have invited Vali Stone to be present in the legislature for the debate  in recognition of her inspiration for the Bill, and I will also be inviting First Responders from our community and from across the province to join us. I extend the same invitation to you, should you want to demonstrate your support.

As always, I welcome your comments and advice. You can contact me through my website at www.frank-klees.on.ca or by calling me at 905 750 0019.

Press Release September 12, 2012 and details of the Bill