Seasoned candidate inflames political rivals

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, October 6, 2004

Some years ago I came across a really fiery candidate running for election. I haven't caught a whiff of him this round, but the way things are heating up on the hustings, I sense something may be smoldering just below the surface.

I first encountered his name in the 2000 federal election. It was posted among a forest of campaign signs that had sprouted up along a local road. Like all such signs, these were attempts at winning my vote for this candidate or that.

And there, right in the middle of them, bold as could be – and even with his phone number – stood this attention-grabbing placard:


Firewood, I thought to myself. What a great name! Here's a candidate who sees himself as a cut above the rest! A candidate with sizzle! What a PR coup for someone aspiring to public office!

I mean, many have alleged that there's too much deadwood in government. But here was someone actually proud to be deadwood, a citizen solid to the core, with the potential to ignite voter imagination.

Out of curiosity, I did a little background check on Firewood and here's what I found:

Firewood comes from a family tree deeply rooted in our Canadian soil. His brothers played with the Flames; his one sister is part of a school board, the other, part of a hospital board. A cousin of his actually supports the Maple Leafs.

He's poplar wherever he goes, a well-seasoned politician with a bright, sparkling personality and a flare for the flamboyant. He's a cozy guy to have around, and people aren't afraid to bare their soles to him.

Nor is he afraid of the knotty issues facing him once elected. Regarding the high cost of fuel, he promises to reduce gas bills. On the touchy subject of family values, he's committed to keeping the home fires burning.

Which is a good thing, because he has also committed himself to starting a series of fireside chats in keeping with his commitment to improve communication with voters.

Opinion is split among his detractors. Some say that he lacks spontaneity and initiative, always needing someone to light a fire under him. Others say that when the going gets too hot, he'll burn out. Still others say he'll make an ash of himself in public.

Asked his opinion on international issues, he sounds like he's living on another planet, arguing, "The Cold War isn't over yet."

And in what many regard as a self-serving attempt to protect his political career from being extinguished, he opposes any and all initiatives that might improve water supply and fire prevention.

This caused one voter to ask, "Can we really afford Firewood?" To which he replied, "Projected revenues will be burning holes in our pockets. So why not?"

Nor has his health escaped scrutiny. By his own lifestyle Firewood has shown no support for the anti-smoking lobby. (But he denies ever having inhaled!)

He's accused of being inflammatory, a smokescreen of obfuscation, and a member of a splinter group.

His noble heritage has been challenged, too. As another candidate put it, "Firewood's been cut off from his roots so long he's all dried up." His integrity has also been called into question, some holding that the election is stacked in his favour.

Fellow candidates also charge that he's contemptuous, treating their campaign signs as mere kindling.

It was a Cochrane merchant, however, who made the most serious attack on the political integrity of this incendiary candidate.

She declared, "Firewood can be bought!" The RCMP are investigating the matter.

Meanwhile, enumerators are busy canvassing to determine the number of eligible fireplaces in our community.

Now the most important decision is up to us. In the battle for our hearths and minds, when other candidates leave us in the cold, Firewood claims to be someone we voters can really warm up to.

But can he deliver? That's what we must decide come election day.

And even if Firewood meets his match and loses, the very fact that he's been willing to let his name stand should kindle our hopes for a brighter tomorrow.

© 2004 Warren Harbeck

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