A sparkling candidate voters could really warm up to
COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Some years ago I wrote about a fiery candidate who, although he failed to get elected, succeeded brilliantly in fanning the flames of friendship among the supporters of all the contenders. He even inspired them to take down their adversarial lawn signs, add them to the friendly fire, and share a few post-election chuckles.
In view of this week’s hotly contested provincial vote, I think it’s time to revisit this fiery candidate.
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, attempting to win 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 was a candidate who saw 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 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 came from a family tree deeply rooted in our Alberta soil. His brothers played with the Flames; his sister was a school board member. A cousin of his actually supported the Maple Leafs.
He was poplar everywhere he went, a well-seasoned politician with a bright, sparkling personality and a flare for the flamboyant. He was a cozy guy to have around, and people weren’t afraid to bare their soles to him.
Nor was he afraid of the knotty issues facing him once elected. Regarding the high cost of fuel, he promised to reduce gas bills. On the touchy subject of family values, he was committed to keeping the home fires burning.
Which was a good thing, because he’d also committed himself to starting a series of fireside chats in keeping with his commitment to improve communication with voters.
Opinion was split among his detractors. Some said he wasn’t a self-starter, always needing someone to light a fire under him. Others said that when the going got too hot, he’d burn out. Still others said he’d make an ash of himself in public.
Asked his opinion on international issues, he sounded like he was living on another planet, arguing, “The Cold War isn’t over yet.”
And in what many regarded as a self-serving attempt to protect his political career from being extinguished, he opposed 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 had his health escaped scrutiny. By his own admission, Firewood had declared himself to be no friend of the anti-smoking lobby. (But he denied ever having inhaled!)
He was accused of being inflammatory, a smokescreen of obfuscation, and a member of a splinter group. Fellow candidates charged that he was contemptuous, treating their campaign signs as mere kindling.
His noble heritage had been challenged, too. As one candidate put it, “Firewood’s been cut off from his roots so long he’s all dried up.”
His integrity had also been called into question, some holding that the election was stacked in his favour.
It was a Cochrane merchant, however, who made the most serious attack on this incendiary candidate’s political integrity.
She declared, “Firewood can be bought!” The RCMP are still looking into the matter.
Meanwhile, enumerators were busy canvassing to determine the number of eligible fireplaces in our community.
Ultimately, the final decision was up to us. In the battle for our hearths and minds, when other candidates left us in the cold, Firewood claimed to be someone we voters could really warm up to.
But could he deliver? That’s what we had to decide on Election Day.
Sadly for Firewood, he met his match and lost. But the very fact that he’d been willing to let his name stand stoked our hopes for a bright tomorrow.
Now it’s up to us again to be stirred by Firewood’s glowing example. After all, isn’t there a bit of Firewood in all of us? So, here’s a fireside toast to all who participated in Alberta’s democratic elections.
And a special clink of our coffee cups to the victorious PC candidate for Banff-Cochrane, Ron Casey!
© 2012 Warren Harbeck