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This article was published 22/9/2014 (2119 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The firefighters union will do what it refused to do four years ago -- endorse Judy Wasylycia-Leis for mayor.
Alex Forrest, president of the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg, said endorsing Wasylycia-Leis is like returning home for firefighters, who have supported her previous federal and provincial campaigns.
"Judy is the right candidate for the right time," Forrest said as he and Wasylycia-Leis stood in the Fire Fighters Museum on Maple Street Monday surrounded by dozens of firefighters wearing yellow Wasylycia-Leis campaign T-shirts.
Wasylycia-Leis said she made no promises to Forrest in exchange for the union's support, except to ensure all of the city's emergency services are protected and exempt from budget cuts.
"The reason we do this (political endorsements) is because our jobs are on the line when decisions are made," Forrest said.
The endorsement is a reversal for the union, which four years ago rejected Wasylycia-Leis's overtures and backed Sam Katz.
Forrest said the union didn't so much oppose Wasylycia-Leis in 2010. Rather, it opted to side with Katz because he had supported the union and it was returning the favour.
Wasylycia-Leis said she was humbled and honoured to receive their endorsement, adding she understood their situation four years ago and is not holding any grudges.
"I am so energized and so encouraged to enter this last month in the campaign knowing I have the firefighters by my side," Wasylycia-Leis said. "True to your professional calling, you are always here when we need you the most."
Forrest said Wasylycia-Leis is the candidate best able to reach out to Winnipeggers and councillors of all political leanings to reach consensus at city hall, adding he was concerned Brian Bowman and Gord Steeves surrounded themselves with extreme right-wingers concerned more with budget cuts than service delivery.
"It's not that I dislike (Bowman and Steeves) personally," Forrest said. "What scares the heck out of me is the people they've surrounded themselves with -- very right-wing individuals who I believe will hurt the city...
"The mayor who is going to be leader after the election is going to have to... be non-partisan and I really don't believe (Bowman and Steeves) really have that ability."
Forrest said he's concerned with the transformation of Steeves from a moderate, centrist politician during 11 years as a councillor to this campaign's hardened right-winger.
Katz said securing the union endorsement is "a big feather" in Wasylycia-Leis's cap.
"It comes with workers, which is probably the hardest thing to acquire in an election," Katz said.
"Raising money is easy. Knocking on doors is fun. Burmashaving is a riot. Finding people to actually do the work that has to be done is the biggest challenge of all, so there's no question that's extremely valuable to any candidate running."
Mayoral candidate David Sanders said he was never approached by the firefighters union.
Robert-Falcon Ouellette and Coun. Paula Havixbeck said they did not go after the firefighters' endorsement, explaining they want to present a campaign that's not tied to any particular group.
Forrest said the union can bring a team of 250 firefighters to work on Wasylycia-Leis's campaign, adding they also expect to help with strategy in the remaining month of the campaign.
-- with files from Bartley Kives
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Updated on Tuesday, September 23, 2014 at 6:36 AM CDT: Replaces photo