Ottawa Citizen
Saturday 4 November 2000

Cain vows to scrap quotas

Pledge would kill 'preferential' hiring of female firefighters

Daniel McHardie, with files from Aaron Sands
The Ottawa Citizen

Gloucester mayor Claudette Cain is promising to axe preferential hiring standards in the new city's life-saving services, which will kill Ottawa's controversial practice of hiring female firefighters first.

Ms. Cain attacked "quotas and preferential hiring practices" when she unveiled her seven-point plan to make Ottawa a safer city yesterday at Patenaude's Fang She Do Kung-Fu School.

"I want to make it clear that I do not support altering, (or) diminishing standards for policing. What it does is endanger our public safety," she said. "At the end of the day it has to be the best person for the job, no matter what."

Ms. Cain said she doesn't believe there should be any difference in academic or physical criteria when hiring police officers or firefighters.

The original debate was sparked in December 1998 when Ottawa City Council decided women who pass a basic firefighting test would be hired first -- regardless of where they ranked on a score sheet.

After the women have been hired, the top male candidates would be selected according to their test scores.

The council's controversial policy extended their hiring practices to "self-identified" minorities -- at least until sufficient numbers are hired. The council did not define who qualifies as a minority under the policy.

"I will vigorously promote the philosophy of hiring the best person for the job in every department, and division of the entire city," she said. "The job of policing and the job of firefighting are certain jobs that you have to build in certain standards to ensure public safety, nothing should compromise that."

Ms. Cain's proposal left Herb Kreling, chairman of the Ottawa-Carleton Police Services Board, scratching his head.

"I'm not sure where the proposal comes from," Mr. Kreling said. "I'm not aware that there are any different standards for different applicants anywhere."

The regional police Web site states: "The Ottawa-Carleton Regional Police Service is an equal-opportunity employer who aims to reflect the diversity and linguistic composition of the community we serve. To maintain our tradition of excellence, we seek to augment our ranks with people representative of the diversity of our community."

Regional Chair Bob Chiarelli, Ms. Cain's chief rival for mayor and member of the police services board, demanded specifics from the Gloucester mayor. He would not comment on the firefighters debate, but in reference to the hiring practices of Ottawa's police, he said Ms. Cain is "fear-mongering" and accused her of trying to "scare seniors."

"Either she's poorly misinformed or she's playing hot-button, divisive politics," Mr. Chiarelli said.

"If she's not prepared to identify the regulations and the standards which are supposedly special and lower and if she's not prepared to identify the preferred groups, then she should pack up her bags and get out of the campaign.

"It's irresponsible politics. If there's a legitimate debate on the facts that's fair comment, but where are the facts?"

However, while Mr. Chiarelli is demanding specifics on Ms. Cain's "preferred groups," he released an an equally ambiguous statement on this subject earlier in the campaign.

Mr. Chiarelli said he would make "a commitment to act on employment equity within the new city and ensure equal access to jobs."

He said the challenge in the new city includes "making certain new Canadians and new residents of different ethnic backgrounds are better served and more involved."

While the majority of the debate surrounded hiring practices, Ms. Cain also outlined several measures to cut crime in Ottawa.

She's planning to reduce crime by injecting $1 million into specialty crime investigative units and lift the moratorium on new community-based police centres.

As well, Ms. Cain wants more training and work given to community police centre volunteers, offer victims regular updates as to the progress of investigations and she is demanding the provincial and federal governments make it harder for dangerous and repeat offenders to be released by restricting parole and abolishing concurrent sentencing.

"The residents from one end to the other, with all the changes we are going to have, they want to be safe in their communities and, more important, feel safe if they want to get out and about in the city," Ms. Cain said.

Copyright 2000 Ottawa Citizen