UPDATED MAY 11, 2018
By Don Norman
Close to 200 people came out to the May 1 Victoria Beach council meeting earlier this month. The crowd was significantly more than the room could hold with a capacity of 60 people. At least 100 people were turned away at the door of the meeting that was being held in a meeting room at the Viscount Gort Hotel in Winnipeg.
The crowd was there mainly to protest the firing of long-time Fire Chief Brad Patzer last month.
Reeve Brian Hodgson opened the meeting noting that despite the change of venues to accommodate the large crowd that was expected, that the room should be considered the council chamber for the meeting. “I sense that people might want to express their feelings and interrupt our meeting,” he said. “This is not a town hall meeting. It is a council meeting,” continued Hodgson. “We cannot and will not be speaking to issues regarding the Mr. Patzer or any other personnel issues. I ask that you refrain from interrupting the council meeting.”
However, council still had to hear the delegations on the docket who had come to speak to council regarding the termination of Patzer.
VB Deputy FC. Wolf Kraft spoke first. “I’ve asked to speak here today on behalf of the Fire Department,” Kraft began. He said he’d made at least 5 requests to answer questions and none of the requests were acknowleged. He asked council why no one would respond. Reeve Hodgson replied, “You’re here as a delegation, you are here to present to us.” To which the crowd expressed their disappointment with shouts of “answer the question!”
“In view of what you just said,” Kraft responded, “I’m here to let you know and let everyone here know, we are here to stand strong and together with our community. We will not quit! We will not be intimidated or harassed by this council or CAO!”
He brought up the council’s position on the dismissal of Patzer being his lack of communication. “But you’re not communicating with me,” he pointed out. “Perhaps the communication barrier, was not on Brad’s behalf, but on council’s behalf.”
He said that the Fire Department’s lawyers have sent council a request to remove the order barring Patzer from the fire department. Brad has not resigned as firefighter, so as far as we are concerned, he is still a volunteer firefighter with the RM of Victoria Beach.
Hodgson said the RM’s lawyers had not had a chance yet to view it.
“I’m willing to take the position of chief. All of the firefighters are going to help me in that position. We are asking that Brad can come back because there’s so much in his head that he can help us with.” He suggested Patzer be appointed Deputy Chief but that all communication would come through him (Wolf).
Victoria Beach resident and part owner of Jerry Bourassa spoke next. He said that council and specifically Reeve Hodgson must demonstrate leadership at this time.
After council had run through the rest of their agenda, the meeting went to a question period where Kraft spoke once again confirming that the Fire Department would not walk off the job and would continue to fight fires in the area. “We’ve got no bargaining chips left on the table,” he said. “We are leaving it up to you, the public will voice your opinion and I truly hope that council is listening to you. “
The line up to the meeting room. The room is at the end of this hallway. Most of the people in this picture were turned away.