Ms. Cindy Forster: A Tim Hortons Smile Cookie can go a long way in raising fire safety awareness. Until Sunday, $1 from every Tim Hortons Smile Cookie bought in Welland will be donated back to the Hope Centre for the 2017 Smile Cookie Campaign. The centre hopes to raise $20,000 for the Port Colborne Fire and Emergency Services’ smoke alarm program, helping to make sure homeowners have working smoke alarms. The campaign kicked off after a fatal fire claimed the lives of a family of four last December, including a two-year-old boy and his 15-year-old sister.

After meeting with the Port Colborne fire chief at a CKTB roundtable last spring, I asked the Office of the Fire Marshal how much government-paid advertising goes toward fire safety and public awareness. It turns out that the Ministry of Community Safety and Corrections doesn’t compile that information. Worse, they didn’t have any data on smoke alarm compliance for Ontario homes either. Between 2011 and 2015, almost half of all fires in Ontario were residential. Between 2006 and 2015, fire fatalities increased from 72 to 83. Of those, 12 of the alarms didn’t operate at 14 had no alarms.

I stand today to call on the government to put fire safety awareness first and make sure it isn’t offloading their responsibility to our non-profit community agencies, who could use those dollars elsewhere.

Lastly, to the Hope Centre: Thank you for the invaluable and remarkable services you continue to provide our communities.