In British Columbia, firefighters and police are recognized as an essential service but paramedics too are now in the fight to add their title to the list to receive the same recognition.

Your Province Your Paramedics, an advocacy group for the rights of B.C. paramedics, has spearheaded a petition under the provinces initiative process to designate paramedics as essential.

First of all, you cant look at it and say that its not crazy, Bram Rossman, a local paramedic, said. How could BC Ambulance not be an essential service? Paramedics are an essential part of any emergency system and the fact that in B.C. paramedics are not an essential service is just nuts.

Under current provincial legislation, B.C. Ambulance paramedics and dispatchers are combined with hospital employees such as janitors and cooks when dealing with contract negotiations and job conditions. The proposal will move ambulance services into the same bargaining unit as other emergency services in the province, meaning that ambulance paramedics would surrender their right to strike in exchange for their employers right to lock them out during an impasse in the bargaining process.

Instead, they would be directed to an independent arbitrator who would force binding arbitration between the two sides, which Mr. Rossman said is a more fair deal for both parties.

Mr. Rossman also said that such a deal would avoid a disagreement similar when the paramedics went on strike in 2009 where the job action was ended with back-to-work legislation from the provincial government with the province temporarily declaring them an essential service.

Invermere mayor and Columbia River Revelstoke NDP representative Gerry Taft supports the paramedics initiative saying, they deserve to be treated consistently with police and fire professionals.

Paramedics are an under-appreciated part of our health care system and they have not received the support from the Christy Clark government that they deserve, Mr. Taft continued. Rural paramedics receive ridiculously low on-call wages with little prospect of full time employment, resulting in a shortage of paramedics in many communities.

Doug Clovechok, Liberal candidate for the riding, expressed his thanks paramedics for their service here in the region, hoping to work with local paramedics if elected as the ridings new MLA.

I am pleased B.C. has recently added additional resources to improve our paramedics ability to respond to emergencies, Mr. Clovechok said. I look forward to the outcome of the initiative process, and to working with first responders to make sure their service is recognized and the public well looked after. One thing for certain your voices will be heard in Victoria once I am your MLA.

Mr. Rossman said that if anyone is interested in signing the petition, they can get in touch with any of the paramedics from Invermere and they will also be setting up a booth at the Columbia Valley Rockies game on February 18th to collect any remaining signatures.

Under the provincial provisions for the initiative process, the petition has until April 10th to receive signatures from at least 10 per cent of the electorate in each electoral district to trigger either a referendum or legislative action.