Canadian Contractor

Firefighters in construction

It seems that more and more firefighters are moonlighting in the renovation contracting business. What if reno contractors were to moonlight as firefighters?

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January 22, 2013 by Alec Caldwell

I’m sure some of you have spotted them up on roofs or ladders, installing shingles or doing other renovation work on their days off. Increasingly, this is a hobby or a side business for many firefighters.  Sometimes there’s a whole crew working together, with shinny vehicles sporting fire hall symbols on license plates or stuck elsewhere on their vehicles.

Yes, it’s a free world and competition is good, but are these firefighters working under the same set of rules and regulation the rest of us mere mortals? Legitimate renovation business owners have to contend with increasingly burdensome government regulations, be it mandatory WSIB on everyone in Ontario, including the self-employed (who used to be exempt), or be it the new Ontario College of Trades with their mandatory fees levied against certain trades.

So the question is: are these firefighters paying WSIB? Do they carry liability insurance to protect homeowners? Are they compliant under the Occupational Health & Safety Act (OHSA) and more? Are they, in fact, part of the growing underground market spurred on by, in addition to the above, double digit sales taxes?

For firefighters, what if we legitimate contractors were to make it a level playing field by starting our own fire services as a sideline? Get to those fires first and take away their income! What? Legislation wouldn’t allow this and we’d be arrested? I heard an old saying the other day which said: What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

Let us know your thoughts on firefighters in construction – or anything else affecting your livelihood.


Alec Caldwell

Alec Caldwell

Alec Caldwell is the Founder of CARAHS, a Health & Safety Organization. We are approved providers by the Ministry of Labour (Ontario) to teach Working at Heights Training (Pro#34609) Visit the Ministry of Labour's web site to view our listing
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59 Comments » for Firefighters in construction
  1. Cor Lobbes says:

    If contractors are so worried about moonlighting . They should maybe looking at what they are charging and stay on par with firefighters most of them beeing Journeyman in some trade field either worked in that field or went to school to attain standing.Before joining fire service.Do bidding of jobs fair and you will get all the work you need.

    • Randy Burke says:

      I laughed out loud after reading the comment submitted above! A firefighter expects legal professionally run building contractors to set their pricing according to what a moonlighter charges? What a joke!

    • Patrick Grieco says:

      Hey Cor Lobbes, have you inhaled toxic fumes one too many times? Why don’t you put your money where your mouth is, quit your taxpayer funded job & salary, waive all rights to your lifetime benefits & pension, and come show us full-time, overcharging contractors what were doing wrong!

      Well, how about it? Don’t know about anybody else but I’m not holding my breath on this happening anytime soon.

      Maybe it’s time for municipalities to forbid civil servants from moonlighting while they are employed, otherwise they should lose their job, benefits & pension.

      • Rob Sloan says:

        Great response Patrick! Don’t forget the “Guaranteed by our tax dollars – Indexed Pensions” too. I have owned an Electrical Contracting Company for over 20 years. I know a lot of small business owners, and for every “Crook” there is at least 25 fools. It is quite likely that Cor has no understanding of “Costs”. But unfortunately it is not just the Firemen who don’t understand cost, although some seem to be able to survive longer. The rest of us get an expensive lesson from the “Harvard School of Hard Knocks”, and we either smarten up or go out of business. CARAHS should spend more time in this space. Perhaps a little contest. Why does an employee earning $35 per hour actually cost $58.00 per hour….and what would be appropriate profit and overhead on top of that?

  2. Don says:

    The question must be, what do you want to be when you grow up? Do you want to be a firefighter or do you want to be a conntractor. To often in this day we get guys that choose the wrong career path and in the midst of the conflict they become wanabee somethings. They are seldom fully adapted for there seconondary chosen field, so what happens in the long run we all look bad. We charge to much and they know to little. In our neck of the woods we have to contend with the autoworkers also. When they have a lay-off or a union issue during contract time, they are not working, and say for us if it is a strike situation if my guys cross the picket line they are called scabs. In my opinion if you are not running legite you are crossing the picket line. As professionals we play dodge ball all day long, customers,WSIB,MOL,MTO, employees, this is not a business to be in with half an effort

  3. chris says:

    Firefighters make what, $50,000 or so, plus holidays (and the pay that goes with the days off), sick leave, dental, government pension, don’t work beyond their work day and are guaranteed their jobs. If I had all that, I’d be generous with my pricing too…. so I don’t don’t understand your point. I should charge what a guy with a full time salary, benefits and no overhead does???

    I suppose though, if they start a fire while working on someones reno, they are already there to put it out:)

    • M.F. says:

      $50k? Go have a look at the Sunshine List and you’ll be stunned at the # of FF’s who are making over $100k yet still need to go undercut the private sector! Don’t forget that before long we will ALL have to foot the bill for unsustainable Public Workers salaries and pensions through the new tax called the Ontario Registered Pension Plan!

  4. Michael says:

    This will be a two part comment,having just gone through a WSIB audit I am still fuming about the inequality of our system.Simple math will show the disadvantage a reporting business owner is at,13%hst +10&wsib +maybe 5% net profit.I mentioned this to the Auditor lo and behold Police,Firemen and Paramedics were on WSIB radars screen also they were targeting what I call the cellphone contractors in our local papers.
    The second part of this comment is directed towards C Lobbes if I was to get a Firemans salary on their short work week and be covered by their communities disability policy, should I injure myself on one of my side jobs I would consider myself fortunate indeed.
    Is this what you mean and I quote you(Do bidding of jobs fair) and (stay on par with firefighters)

  5. Bill says:

    All of us legitimate contractors could work for 25/hr cash,as my local firefighters do ,if we had the taxpayers covering us and our families with a decent salary,benifits,pension etc. If C. Lobbes wants us on par with firefighters get the government to start sending us contractors some pay cheques and benifit packages!

  6. Rob says:

    It is totally ridiculous that a fireman or policeman or any other public employee Should be allowed to do any kind of construction job as a Side job or second job.

    As Michael Points out if they get hurt while working on someone’s roof they are covered by the government’s disability pension, then why are we the taxpayers on the hook for that. As part of their contract with the government to be a firefighter or policeman if They are injured when there working away from there Government jobs They shouldn’t be covered by any kind of disability Payments.

    The biggest problem with the construction industry is that all you need to do Is own a Hammer and be able to start work and your a contracter. I worked in the
    construction industry for 20 years so I know what I’m talking about.

    I honestly don’t think there is any solution to fix all the problems in this industry,
    how do you police it when you can’t see it. WE would need so many High Payed government inspectors to police the industry to straighten it out, it would cost so much money that we could just pay the contractors to stay home with the Hundreds of millions it would cost for The inspectors high pay and government pensions.

  7. Doug says:

    Firemen in Toronto work a maximum 7 days a month for over $80,000 a year. A guy who is legit bids on a fence and uses the money to live and pay taxes, some of which goes to our “heroes” . He is then undercut by the fireman who works for cash and basically needs a new prop for his ski-boat . Seems fair to me. I’m glad I don’t have to compete with these guys but I sure have had to fix a bunch of their F’ups over the years.

    • Dan Prouse says:

      I’m an electrician by trade and also a professional firefighter for 15 years, and I am asked regularly to fix f’ups by non firefighters who claim to be legit contractors. I charge tax as well!!

      • Alec Caldwell says:

        Hi Dan,
        I really appreciate your post and the fact you are not out to hide anything is great (as you posted your name)

        It sounds like you are one of the good guys and your issue about seeing some bad work from some supposedly renovators it true and we’d like to see them out the business.

        This rings true of a number of moonlighting firefighters & police officers who should are doing renovation, illegally, including electrical work, which I have personally experienced many years ago.

        As one firefighter commented at the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) LinkedIn groups Carl comments:

        “I am on the board of a large fire department. The problem is 2 fold, from the fire dept.’s perspective if a man injures himself on the renovation job it is likely to become a claim under the Fire Dept coverage. It is just to easy to claim the back injury came during fire fighting duties. Most of the time they are doing the side jobs for cash and don’t carry the proper insurances”

        Dan there is two sides to every story and hopefully while you personally collect tax, you have other items as well like: all the Ministry of Labour requirements, (or similar) coverage of liability insurance to protect homeowners, have WSIB (if required) or whatever its called where you live and finally if you reside in Ontario, you are registered under law with the COT.

        I hopefully await your response.
        Thanks Dan.

        Alec Caldwell (CARAHS Founder) Toll free 1-866-366-2930

  8. Bryan says:

    “DIY er’s”, moonlighters, discount handymen, etc…. These are all a part of what makes the construction trade, primarily the renovation industry, a hit or miss in terms of proper representation. I chose this as my career, not my hobby, not my side job, and not a fall back. If a fire fighter, policeman, auto worker, vanilla ice, or anyone else doing this on the side better, as previously mentioned, have full insurance, wsib, and a registered business charging HST.
    If i have to compete against someone else on a bid, i hope they are on my level, otherwise i’m out and best of luck to the homeowner.

  9. I really apreciate everyone’s feed back so far on this subject and its opening my mind getting these feed backs.

    Firstly I never considered was when they work on construction and get hurt and have to take time off, will their claim for disability go through their fire group benefits? If so, it should not. as they were not doing thier occupation at the time

    Secondly it was mentioned they are in fact civil servants and there are completing against the very people who pay their wages!

    Thirdly, I want to add, I’m out there daily around the GTA Toronto area visiting job sites and having 32 years of looking for contractors, I scan streets as I drive and beleive me when I see a crew of firefighters working in construction, I’ll be slamming my brakes on and I don’t hold back in approaching them.

    I never walk away empty handed and follow through on anything that I see thats unjust. This is the very reason I wrote on this very subject, as 2 contractors last week mentioned “What about these firefighters” So up goes my controversial article and I don’t care if they don’t come to put out my fire! I’ll put it out myself 🙂


  10. Paul Bremner says:

    Do what I do, call the CRA, MOL, local fire chief whenever you see a crew of these guys on a roof because guaranteed, they aren’t using harnesses at the very least. It’s amazing the fear an MOL inspector can instill in a bunch of calendar boys.

    CRA is always happy to investigate cash operators as well. Thank even thank you for the tip!

  11. chris says:

    It would be difficult to tell if they were preforming any reno’s inside a home that included electrical work but if ESA were called in on it, it would be so ironic to see a firefighter, charged with performing illegal, hazardous, unlicensed work and end up on the ESA electrical contractors convictions list.

  12. R.sisti says:

    I have been in the building supply business for over 30 yrs and in the last 5 years more and more firemen, teachers and police men have been coming in and asking the stupidest questions , basic building 101 kind of stuff. they build a dog house on the week end , watch home and garden tv and suddenly there contractors mean while , my experienced knowledgeable contractors are starving with the constant burden of WSIB,MOL,MTO, .Some thing has to be done ! it”s not right

  13. Robert Sloan says:

    I have a solution! Let’s encourage the Fireman’s union to under bid the the Police Union for that way overpriced and cushy road side flag man contract. It’s a fact that most people respect Firemen more than Cops anyway. You don’t see it in the USA….Cops moonlight as bouncers there. Just one of the reasons that the taxpayer’s of Ontario pay 2.5 times as much per mile of road as New York State does. The other is The Working Family Coalition Group and the Mc Guinty Liberals.

  14. Part time business is like sittting on the edge of a pool with your feet in the water and thinking your’re swimming. Moonlighters give me a pain especialy firefighters etc.
    I will now look to turn in moonlighters especially having just undergone a CRA audit. Complaining to them about their incompentent staff is like talking to the wall. They can screw up 6 ways from tomorrow and you get to pay to try and prove them wrong.

  15. It makes perfect sense to me for Firfighters to be Contractors, who better than they know the intimate workings of a structure? Besides most Firefighters are under paid or volunteers.

  16. Patrick Grieco says:

    Ok, so how do we solve this, or at least put a damper on the cash guy’s parade? Hate to say it but province wide contractor licensing. To see how this kind of system works all you have to do is look to the south as a number of states have this in place. No license: can’t operate a contracting company, can’t get a building permit or call in for inspections, can’t sue a homeowner who stiffs you and the same goes for the homeowner, can’t sue a cash guy who takes your money and runs. For this to work, they will have to grandfather all of us legit operators and anybody starting up who wants to become licensed will have to take an exam, show proof of CRA registration, WSIB registration and probably be on some kind of probation for a year or two. Permanent reinstatement of the home reno tax credit should go hand in hand with this. There has been no greater tool to discourage cash work than this.

    I am definitely no fan of government bureaucracy but I can’t think of any better way to make the cash guys life difficult and encourage homeowners to deal with legit contractors. We’re never going to eliminate all the cash guys because afterall, as long as there is a homeowner willing to pay cash there will be somebody happy to take it. Sad to say but i’m also putting, CRA, MOL & WSIB on speed dial. Hate to be that kind of guy but I’m running out of options and my back is up against the wall with the 2013 WSIB contractor tax and, o yeah, the College of Trades tax as well. The more I type the more aggravated I get so I should probably stop now.

    Is anybody else in favour of this?

    • Robert Koci says:

      As you, I am no fan of government oversight, but I think you are right and we need to push the idea to government officials in our respective provinces. Alec Caldwell mentioned in another post that they do that in the States, and operate sting operations to catch guys who are working without permits. It does nothing to prove you are good at what you do, but it will curtail cash work by guys who are not paying their legally required overheads.

  17. Bryan says:

    I’m with you Patrick. If not a lic. General carpenter, then at least certification in a specific portion you wish to specialize in, but stick to it. Anyone who wouldn’t be willing to certify themselves or obtain a license in there trade can’t be that serious about what they do. Don’t do it for the government, do it for the profession and our customers. Let’s make this a serious business.

  18. S van Maanen says:

    I’ve been renovating for over fifteen years I got good guys,good tools,and a good reputation. When I showed up at the fire with my garden hose they sent me home. Said I didn’t have the right equipment, the proper insurance and no professional training WTF.

  19. All Fired Up!

    The article on Firefighters in Construction sure cased a firestorm of responses and will this debate every extinguish itself? We have chosen a few from the many responses that were received. I am sure this debate will continue to rage on. We thanks all those who took the time and effort to respond.

    At HomeStars one homeowner Cowtown comments:

    “As the daughter of a retired firefighter, I would have to defend their side on your accusations” “Maybe you could show some respect.”

    At the Home Improvement Remodelling LinkedIn group Steve comments:

    “Wonderful more competition, they have a job already leave us alone”

    At the National Association of the Remodelling Industry (NARI) LinkedIn groups Carl comments:

    “I am on the board of a large fire department. The problem is 2 fold, from the fire dept.’s perspective if a man injures himself on the renovation job it is likely to become a claim under the Fire Dept coverage. It is just to easy to claim the back injury came during fire fighting duties. Most of the time they are doing the side jobs for cash and don’t carry the proper insurances. That provides an unfair competitive advantage. Finally, I wonder how much of the income is reported. So, in summary, if they start an official business, buy insurance, report the taxes, etc I say welcome to the business world. If they are the others who don’t, I say a pox upon them”

    At the National Association of the Remodelling Industry (NARI) LinkedIn groups Lawrence comments:

    “Taking work from the trades and other professions because your board or just greedy just isn’t right. It is hard enough getting a consistent pay check as it is. Something that they don’t have to worry about. Let us feed are family and we can all make the world go around”

    At the Outdoor Woodwork Experts LinkedIn group Lawrence comments:

    “The Ironic part Alec… is that firefighters are paid by the government… so a firefighter or policeman involved in black market activities like Cash work is a sort of sad to see. (not as sad to see as the politicians that have asked me to do Cash in the past)… 3 so far”

    At the Outdoor Woodwork Experts LinkedIn group Brent comments:

    I feel most firefighters I know are good construction workers plus they put there life on the line to save others. This is added competition but I would rather compete with them than some of the other jack legs that are out there selling their selves not having a clue what they are doing and giving a bad name or label to us all. So I feel they are more competent and conscious of doing the work and do not mind sharing the load with them. On the most part they stay with in a group that they take care of each other.

    At the Canadian Home Improvement Industry-Retailers & Suppliers LinkedIn group Patrick comments:

    “This has always been an issue with me.. First and foremost, construction and renovation are a hard enough business to be in these days with all the fly by nighters ripping people off but we also need to deal with Cops and firefighters taking away clients that we need. With the money they make as well as the benefits they get”

  20. mark the coach says:

    Most people do not have the guts to write about fireman working on the side for cash. It sometimes get the unions all riled up. However I think we should also note that there are firemen who have legal side contracting businesses and they play by the rules.
    It is anyone’s guess how many are legal but it is more likely that the majority of firemen who work construction choose to be under the radar.
    This is a problem that is almost impossible to eradicate because firemen are one of the most beloved professions in the eyes of our society. When our home is on fire they are God. Many could care less if they make a few bucks on the side.

    • Robert Koci says:

      I would love to hear from a fireman/contractor on this issue. Anyone know one?

      • Ray Millar says:

        I am both a full time firefighter and a contractor and I agree with much of what has been said on this matter. As a licenced Carpenter (Inter Provincial – Red Seal) and a registered builder, I have provided many full time apprenticeship opportunities for others joining the construction trade over the years. I pay my dues to our construction trade association, to WSIB, to TARION, I hire only licensed trades who can provide me with WSIB certificates, I pay the payroll taxes for my employees and provide them a high level of training and perhaps most importantly, I pay my taxes, never working for cash!

        I am continually amazed at the number of people who ask for the “Cash Price” and I am equally amazed at the number of people who are willing to work for cash in order to avoid taxes. I know as well as anyone that it is tax dollars that pay for the services we receive from our federal, provincial and municipal governments. I’ve had “bootleg builders” (not TARION registered) approach me asking me to frame houses for them and offering to pay cash, I’ve had painters come to me looking for work but only if I pay cash. Often, these are the people who complain when their kids can’t get an OSAP grant, when there is a line up at the hospital emergency room or when their street isn’t plowed on time. Taxes pay for these services and yet there are those who will do their best to avoid paying taxes.

        I apologize if I am preaching but it really burns my butt when people fail to see the connection between taxes and services. I know that not all tax money is spent wisely and we can each come up with examples to prove that point but to be certain, the vast majority of our tax dollars are well spent so let’s not use that as an excuse to avoid taxes.

        With respect to injuries and accidents suffered by firefighters working in the construction trades, it is highly unlikely that they would be protected by a municipality’s WSIB coverage. (Anyone who hires or contracts with another absent WSIB coverage does so at their own peril.) That said, some firefighters may be covered by a benefit plan, in much the same way they would if they were hurt playing hockey on Sunday night. That’s a benefit they have either paid or negotiated for which is very different from having municipal coverage provided.

        In my view, one of our greatest challenges as legitimate contractors arises everytime some jackass with a pick up truck and a skill saw agrees to work for an unscrupulous client looking for the “Cash” discount.

  21. Hi Patrick,
    Your licensing idea could work, as its getting crazy out there. Then as you say, it adds another layer of bureaucracy on top of everything else the legitimate self employed business owner has to suffer in 2013. I don’t know how something like if introduced could be policed? Even now with this new mandatory WSIB, how will they police that, especially after all their scare tactics used leading up to its introduction this month?

    Now going back to your licensing idea, I did see some videos from south of the border and how they dealt with people not licensed. They set up a sting operation where they get contractors to come out to a home and quote the job. As they leave their intercepted by the police and asked to show their license. Anyone who cannot produce one is put in to the cruiser and taken away to be processed. Now is that too tough a measure or would this approach eventually weed out the cowboys in the industry. Anyone got any thoughts on this?

  22. Hi Robert, The problem is not just the fire fighters but includes any one doing “under the table” work. We as an industry need to lobby our m.p. every where to enforce the exsisting laws or enact new ones with stiff penalties for both the cash contractor and his customer. If that requires licensing then so be it

    • Robert Koci says:

      Canadian Contractor is looking for ways to become more involved in lobbying the Ontario government to reduce regulation and red tape and improve policing. I had a discussion with MPP Steve Clark of the PC Party about this. Hopefully, we can get the LIbs to talk to us now that their leadership issues are settled. It’s harder for us to get hold of the issues in other provinces, unfortunately.

  23. Don Jamieson says:

    Fellow contractors, I don”t know if any of you recognized it or not, but you just fell into another government sheme and this time this magazine was used to propigate it. Since when are the Firefighters the only guys working under the table, shame on you to single out a single group. Working under the table is epidemic in many parts of our country and it has very litle to do with firefighters, or any other person whom would choose this means by which to do business. There is already an obscene amount of regulation and this is part and parcel to the problem. Many talented men and women would love to demonstrate there crafts and they may be very well skilled at them, but they are not sklled in the beuracracy of operating a business. Under the current system more businesses will fail than succeed, and the guidelines for measure have now been pushed out 10 years whereas a century ago it was 1 year, in the 70s 3yrs. in the 90s 5yrs. This is a long time to prove sustainability. Consumers have also had it up to there eyeballs, so this becomes one of the only ways to express there disent and they protest accordingly. Has this magazine done surveys in other communities across Canada where taxes are reasonable and regulation controlled. Government is out of control and they will not be sufficiently happy until we all join them. We need to stand together and form a ” Sop The Stupidity” campaign We do not need any further dissent among the great people of our nation, we need to unite and display our intelligence

  24. chris says:

    Don, I have to confess I don’t understand anything you have said here (maybe the part about none of us liking the government, but Contractors aren’t alone in that)

    I think it’s fine to single out one group, in fact Alec might just have another scathing report on groups of housewives out there next week. Only firefighters working illegally will be upset with this report.
    I’m also really confused about in what way consumers (do you mean clients of renos or??) are protesting? What?
    I really think you don’t want to be holding your breath if you expect people working under the table to unite, get legit and start paying taxes, WSIB on their employees (whom they like to call sub contractors:) Insurances, etc.

  25. Don says:

    Chris what do you not understand ” the word or the meaning” It is not fair to single out any group or individual. Underground activity escalates dramatically when Government intervenes with unsubstantiated tax increases or mis-guided regulatory actions. In both instances it has a detrimental affect on commerce. When you do the research you find out that neither parties, the underground contractor nor the consumer wants to conduct themselves in this manner but both perceive it as the best way to express there discent, and of course there will always be a certain portion of society which operates in this manner in spite of any governmental action. Chris I recommend that if you don’t understand something, start at the source, get an understanding of human phychology, research history and see for yourself he bonafide effects of mis-guided government intervention on populations over the past thousands of year. I can apprecate the fact that you do not understand, now you have an opportunity to do something about it. People have been writing unsubstantiated comments in articles for years, this does not make them right because you say so

    • Robert Koci says:

      The great example of overburdening the populace of a country with unfair taxes is the United States and what is know as the Boston Tea Party, the spawn of which has becoming a driving force in US electoral politics. Even in Canada, you can burden your constituents over much, and begin to break the fabric of peace and good government. The underground economy is the vanguard of this kind of movement, and in many cases in history, they have become the heroes of the story.

  26. Don says:

    Thank-you Robert, so here, from a point of truth can we now begin to diseminate the real issues regarding this subject and by collective means come to an intelligent conclusion and advance accordingly. More often than not the population receives information more so to stir frustration than to incite wisdom, We must move from a time of opinion and move into a time of fact. I am confident that these types of articles will incite interest, but what kind of results can we expect from them. it is easy to throw rocks at another man because of our own mistakes. These issues are older than us yet the same discussions are being held today which were held hundreds of years ago, one of the great minds of our time called this another form of insanity. Get to the truth of the matter and resolve in your hearts to fix it

  27. chris says:

    Don, sorry, I get it all now. I think, because the tax issue came, sort of out of left field, I was not getting it.
    Certainly agree! GST widened the gap between the legal and the cash contractor (and I use that term loosely as I apply it to a cash guy) but HST, was the kiss of death! I see BC is getting rid of it in (April?) and if Ontario can only follow suit the gap will narrow a little again.

    I still can not feel bad about singling out any individual or group of employed people for working illegally in the trades. They are not revolting against taxes, they likely have never paid tax on money they generate under the table and they have no intention to ever do so, even if tax laws were to become less unfair. Gainfully employed people with benefits wanting to make some extra money or unlicensed contractors hiring unlicensed sub contractors do not pull at my heart strings, nor cause me to think of taxes being the problem alone. These people are the problem, especially when they can be doing work that is a potential safety hazard.

  28. Alex
    I am upset about the treatment I received at the hands of the CRA after I was selected for one of their “witch hunt” random audits and have protested and will continue to protest their actions vehemently. The guy was an idiot, totally clueless disallowing expenses simply because he couldn’t find invoices from my suppliers even though 4 of the 7 were on the disk in the files he was supposed to review. Everytime I talk to other small business owners, I can usually count on hearing another tale of abuse.
    Perhaps you could ask for comments on this topic.

  29. We are the problem. We all complain. The government should do something about the problems. Our associations talk to Government . Rules and regulations are established. The inspectors are hired. Now ask the inspectors why they are not inspecting the jobs that everyone complains about. They say where do we find them? We know where to find you. You have a legitimate business. When we have finished regulating you, we will go after the people we cannot find. Hey, lets complain about that and set up a new inspection branch in Government with more fees involved to pay for it. I know how to beat this. Apply for a job as a government inspector. They need highly skilled people in your profession.

    I am sure most firefighters are recommended by a friend or neighbor. Most of their customers are most likely satisfied. I do not know how these firefighters can be put out of business. Maybe a contractor should run in municipal elections so that the firefighters shifts can be changed, so they do not have the time to work on the side or have the municipality not allow a firefighter to work on the side. The homeowner has the right to hire anyone he or she wants to hire.

    • Robert Koci says:

      Wow, Gordon, you hit some really good points. I often said the big problem with the cash economy (ie firefighters) is that they are good at what they do and most of their customers are satisfied.

      • Robert Stevens says:

        Hi Robert,

        Do you really feel that firefighters and anyone else who is moonlighing is the probem. If you are a really good contractor, if your work and customer service is top knotch you will have to turn down work.

        As my prelude to retirement I decided to start doing handyman work over the last year of so. I am following all the rules, I have insurance and a license etc.

        I honestly can’t keep up with the calls, even though I don’t want to work 5 days a week but I am honest and up front with my customers at all times.

        If you really want to help contractors run seminars teaching business and admin skills, unfortunately most contractors have poor education and business skills.

        That Robert is the problem with the problems in the contracting business.



  30. I would not suggest that there are not skilled trades in the fire fighting profession, more than likely the opposite is true. The objection is unfair competition from those working for cash without licensing, wsib, HST and other obligations. Sorry, but the committent isn’t the same as someone operating a legit business that provides their sole and only income.
    Brian Edwards

  31. James says:

    Firefighters as contractors? I guess $70,000 a year just isn’t enough.
    Firefighters are stealing work from real contractors that are trying to support thier families.
    On Disasters DIY gives you a perfect example of these firfighter hackers.
    Stick to one career and stop ruining the industry, by cutting others throat with cheap prices.
    You will see firefighters handy work on Holmes on Homes, ripping people off and wrecking peoples homes with their s$%t renovation skills

  32. Moonlighting or part time business is like sitting on the edge of a pool and thinking you are swimming. Legitimate businesses play by the rules and pay taxes etc.
    Those who don’t give us all a bad name not to mention unfair competition. Unfortunately EMS personal seem to be either overly represented in these ranks or more visible

  33. Don Jamieson says:

    Although I have several concerns with all those who moonlight to enhance there income, as a Canadian tax payer I have difficulty in understanding why a firefighter in general would want to take jobs away from those whom pay them ridiculous salaries to what we perceive as good value. These guys are for the most part protected by unions and if we were to go in and take there jobs like they take ours,we would be considered scab labor. Personally I would not want someone who has just completed a 12 hr shift wiring my home, and vise verse I would not want a moonlighting firefighter to fight my fire. This comment is not isolated to firefighters, today in this great country of ours we have an exorbitant amount of scab labor, we need to pressure our government in not making contractors scapegoats in helping to pay off there multi billion dollar blunders

  34. Robert Stevens says:


    This fight against anyone who wants to work as a renovator is getting crazy, I quess first things first. It doesn’t really matter what a person does for a living, wheather they are a 30 year veteran of the renovation business or a cab driver.

    If you care about the work you do for someone and have the proper skills to do that work is the most important thing, If you are a licensed contractor but do lousy work or a part time person doing what ever profession you do but do amazing work and give great customer service than if I was a home owner than the best person for me is the part time guy is the best choice.

    I personally worked for over 20 years as a renovator and never made money becaue I was to much a perfectionist and gave great customer service. I didn’t loose money and always got paid. But the customers always recommended me to there friends.

    Sorry but t have been following this article over the last year or so and feel it doesn’t really matter who is doing the work. If you are a contractor who is up on your skills and know’s who to work for and puts proper contracts in place you will alwasy be have a great business.

    After going from contractor to a career in IT I much relized that when I was contracting I had no idea how important it was to dot the i and T’s

    Do your work but make sure the person you are working for understands exactly to the letter what you are provideing and exactily what you are expecting from them in return, this is all simple business skills.

    If you do 10 jobs over a one year period and make money on only 5 something is wrong. Be the best at what you do and you will be the contractor of choice

    I am now a IT contractor and I follow these rules and have done well

  35. Michael says:

    This discussion or fight as you call it,is not about who works as a renovator or contractor it is about FAIRNESS.
    That means charging and remitting proper taxes,paying WSIB and taking out proper permits.I suspect it won’t be long before competition from Moonlighters in the IT business catches up to the renovation market.

  36. Spring 2014 is here now and roofing crews and more will be arriving to do home renovations. Some legally, but most cash jobs. if you see a crew of them, call us toll free 1 866 366 2930 and we just might pay them a visit and check their credentials out. There is a rewards to the 5 callers. each will get a Tim Horton’s $10 gift card.

  37. By a crew I mean a fire crew…….

  38. It’s possible!

    Could your local fire fighters, with lights flashing, horns blasting, adrenalin pumping, vehicles pulling over as their sparkling machine, valued at over $300,000, blast its way towards this 411 call.

    They round the corner and there in front on them is a home renovation crew crew, unemployed by the OCOT (Ontario College of Trade, if Wynne gets re elected in Ontario)

    They put the fire out, using their power tools and vast years of experience, that OCOT failed to grandfather in.

    I woke up from my dream and the PCs won. What a night mare.

  39. niagara contractor says:

    I have the best solution to this,
    when any clown gets caught working illegitimately,,,, no licences, nopermits etc, start with a $100,000 fine for each offence, if he gets caught in a reno, no building permit(if needed) no plumbing permit or licence, no electrical permit, no licence no contractors licence so theres $700,000 in fines just to start, the first guy might be stupid enough but I’ll bet after the first one makes the news at least 80 % or more would quit in an instant

    To hell with them and anyone who operates illegally, fine them into total financial ruin

  40. Tom Gustar says:

    By the way Alec. It’s not a free country. There is no such thing.It’s lie we are told when we are in grade school that we should have grown out of when we turned 17. We live under a controlled economy. That’s what regulation is. Control. The issue of currency is controlled. Interest rates are controlled . There are a barrage of new laws handed down every year that control more aspects of our lives. Nothing is free. That being said , let’s start controlling the government that controls us. Fire-fire fighters who moonlight. That’s good legislation.

  41. Well said Tom and I agree with you when you say “We live under a controlled economy. That’s what regulation is. Control”

    Control is what’s going on over everyone, including construction.

    The latest in Ontario was a year ago with the launch of the Ontario College of Trades, A non governmental organization, but has huge powers and are our to unemployed those who are not unionized. Again union are about control.

    Unions can work and had done in my fathers day, some 60 years ago. Now many are about greed and control. Mafia style.

  42. With the upcoming municipal elections. Why not ask your candidates if they would support a motion to not allow firefighters to moon light. I also explain to all my customers that challenge me on my price that I’m a professional handyman that carries WSIB, Liability etc. And you can use if your contractor doesn’t have WSIB you can be sued if he or she gets hurt. Works 80% of the time for job closings.

  43. natik abbas says:

    i am with 17 month experience as plumbing & fire fighting engineer from india . am i elligble for this company?