Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/2/2009 (3096 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg are hoping to end a political losing streak -- one that included both candidates endorsed by the union going down to defeat in the city's most recent general election.
In 2006, dozens of firefighters volunteered for St. Boniface Coun. Franco Magnifico and St. Charles candidate Kelly DeGroot in their respective battles against successful candidates Dan Vandal and Grant Nordman.
Now, about 100 UFFW members have pledged to work for Geoff Currier in the River Heights-Fort Garry byelection, which finds the broadcaster in a straight-up race with former school trustee John Orlikow.
Currier enjoys support from federal and provincial Conservatives, while Magnifico and DeGroot were considered right-of-centre candidates as well. But at the provincial level, the UFFW is a staunch supporter of Gary Doer and the NDP.
As a member of the International Association of Fire Fighters, Winnipeg's firefighter union strives to be political but non-partisan, president Alex Forrest attempted to explain as he formally endorsed Currier on Thursday.
"People often ask 'why are firefighters so political?' The answer is politicians determine the level of service we can deliver," he said.
In 2006, the UFFW believed DeGroot, who is married to a firefighter, had a good chance of winning in then-vacant St. Charles. But the union was aware Magnifico faced an uphill battle against Vandal.
"Frankly, we knew we were going to lose. It was a political statement," said Forrest, who said the UFFW has no choice but to support candidates who make public safety the main plank of their campaigns.
Over the past few weeks, the UFFW sat down with both River Heights-Fort Garry candidates before deciding to endorse Currier, who is pledging to lobby for a new fire station in River Heights.
Currier said he is not concerned the UFFW endorsement appeared to be a kiss of death for Magnifico and DeGroot in 2006.
"Those campaigns, if you look at them closely, were flawed..." he said.
The firefighters passed over Orlikow because his main platform planks involve community centres, recycling and transit, Forrest said. "Those are all noble issues, but we're concerned with public safety," he said.
Orlikow said he was disappointed he did not receive the endorsement, as he feels getting people more involved in their communities is a means of working toward greater public safety.
"I find it curious, for sure," he said of getting passed over. "If they believe that's the best person to represent their views, I'm not going to dispute it. I wish I had more of an opportunity to present my issues to them."
In 2006, the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service warned UFFW members not to identify themselves as city employees when they campaigned. The union also ran radio ads in support of DeGroot and Magnifico, even though election rules prevented them from actually naming the candidates.
Forrest has now amassed so much political experience, he's been encouraged to run for public office both provincially and federally.
River Heights-Fort Garry voters go to the polls on March 17.