Ontario making moves to improve benefits for firefighters, inspired by fallen Welland Captain

craig bowman

Ontario wants to improve benefits firefighters are entitled to.

Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development, David Piccini, was in Welland today to make the announcement that it wants to extend esophageal cancer coverage for firefighters with 15 years of service, instead of 25.

Back in the spring, 47-year-old Welland Fire Captain Craig Bowman, died of Stage 4 esophageal cancer.

He was denied WSIB cancer care benefits because he had only worked as a firefighter for 23 years with the city, however he serviced an additional 3 years as a volunteer in Thorold.

Bowman's daughter, Lexie, joined Niagara Centre NDP MPP Jeff Burch at a news conference following his death saying they would both fight for improved benefits as Burch introduced a private members bill in Bowman's honour.

"Esophageal cancer is a highly fatal cancer that is rarely detected until the cancer is in its advanced stage, recent research has shown that the appropriate latency period should be 15 years,” said Greg Horton, President of the Ontario Professional Firefighters Association. 

“We thank Ontario’s elected leaders for recognizing that the legislation requires updating to ensure that firefighters, such as Welland Captain Craig Bowman, don’t slip through the cracks, and that they and their families receive fair treatment should they become ill, disabled or die because of their occupation and service to the public."

The Ford government also say it will introduce legislation to bring in “super indexing” increases to Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) benefits above the annual rate of inflation. 

For an injured worker who earns $70,000 a year, a two per cent increase could mean an additional $900 annually on top of cost-of-living adjustments, which were 6.5 per cent in 2023.

The government will be launching consultations on a new, job-protected leave to match the length of federal Employment Insurance sickness benefits, which is 26 weeks. 

“Ontarians should be able to focus on their cancer treatment without worrying about what it means for their job or how their family will pay their bills,” said Hillary Buchan-Terrell, Advocacy Manager for the Canadian Cancer Society. “We look forward to engaging with the government during this consultation to ensure the perspectives and concerns of cancer patients in Ontario are heard.”