Fred LeBlanc
13th District Vice President

In accordance with the provisions of Article VI, Section 3, of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Constitution and By-Laws, I respectfully submit this report of my activity as the 13th District Vice President to General President, Harold Schaitberger, General Secretary-Treasurer, Edward (Edzo) Kelly, the IAFF Executive Board, and all officers and delegates in attendance at the 55th Convention. This report contains a summary of my activities and those across the District from April 2018 through to April 2020. I have attended all Executive Board meetings, IAFF events, and carried out all assignments given me by General President Schaitberger.

The “Lucky” 13th District proudly represents over 13,300 IAFF members across Ontario and Manitoba, Canada. I have attended the respective provincial Conventions, provincial seminars, meetings, and events, as well as any local meetings and campaigns where required. A good portion of my time is taken with providing advice and guidance, advocacy both locally and provincially, and coordinating our incredible depth of services for our affiliates. I am very appreciative to all our staff and Divisions in Washington and Ottawa, my cadre of Service Representatives for the wide variety of support and dedication they have illustrated to get the job done.

COVID-19

As you are all aware, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic set our world on its collective head. For our members, this was a frontline with an unprecedented transmission capability and introduces new challenges not faced before.

I have been extremely proud of our union’s response to support and inform our affiliates to best deal with what we learn everyday regarding COVID-19 and its impact on how we do our jobs protecting our communities, our families and ourselves. Everything from understanding proper PPE (both in station and on emergency calls), response protocols, new forms of decon, daily personal health checks, to the basics of cleaning equipment, vehicles and stations, have all taken on a new look and have resulted in many questions.

This pandemic will not only force change upon emergency responders, healthcare workers and governments but in general society. Social or physical distancing, proper handwashing, wearing of masks and not touching your face will become the basics to deal with the next pandemic’s spread.

The economic fallout with colossal government bailouts it still unknown but is likely to set a stage for very challenging economic times in the years to come. The impact that will have on our profession cannot even be fully contemplated at this time, but we will need to brace for some new and potentially very tough realities right across the board.

I am confident you will continue your resolve and adapt where required to ensure we respond to the needs of the communities we serve. Our union will also adapt to continue to give you the support and tools you need to meet these everchanging challenges.

On behalf our myself and the entire 13th District, I extend our sincerest thanks and appreciation to all our of staff at the IAFF for not just keeping the day to day business operating but to provide the tremendous response our affiliates, our members and their families deserve during this crisis – THANK YOU!

Provincial Politics

The winds of change hit Ontario’s provincial political landscape in a big way on June 6, 2018. The majority Liberal government (who held power for over 15 years) was largely swept from office replaced by a strong right-wing majority led by now Premier Doug Ford. The NDP formed Official Opposition and the Liberals were left without Party status.

It did not take long for the Ford government to illustrate it was going to be aggressive and did not allow anything to stand in its way (at least in the early days). Their first controversial issue was to reduce the size of the Toronto City Council (Doug Ford was a former City Councilor in Toronto). The problem was they had already held nominations for the current size of council in preparation for the election which was just months away. The City responded with a Court challenge citing Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They won, albeit it was a brief victory. The Premier then responded with a never-utilized section of the Charter, which allowed a provincial government to “set aside” the Charter if the provincial government determined their action was paramount to do so. Obviously, this section was never intended to grant provincial governments an “out card” to simply do whatever it wanted but the mere threat and the required judicial process to sort that out would be incredibly expensive and take years to decide. Thus, the provincial government prevailed, and Toronto City council was cut in half and felt a move to the right. This display of political power was chilling and displayed the lengths this new Premier would go to plow through his agenda.

It did not take long for this government to set its sights on our members in Ontario. Shortly after taking power, their Cabinet removed one of the recently won regulations which called for all fire fighters in all categories to be trained to NFPA standards. A real setback for the fire service that has long sought proper accreditation. The issue was more the affordability of the need for that training in rural areas, but the government viewed the hit to be more against the union (Ontario PFFA) and proceeded to remove the entire regulation. Many full-time fire services have continued to train to the standards despite the fact there is no longer a regulation requiring such.

In December 2018, this government rammed through an omnibus bill that contained amendments to the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, which governs all things fire in Ontario. The changes totally revamped the interest arbitration system and provided a new single-Chair system that the employers had long been seeking. With the removal of a three-person panel and much tighter timeline, it was evident that our locals would now be facing arbitrators with little fire service experience and no other panel members on whom to lean on for advice. Despite this significant change, at the time of writing this report, a handful of locals have had decisions under the new system and thus far it has not hurt the locals, but time will tell, especially if we experience difficult economic times.

As well, in the same piece of legislation, the government inserted measures to make “two-hatters” a protected class. Despite meetings I attended with the OPFFA and the Ministry of Labour to discuss the history this issue has had under previous governments, including former PC governments, and a commitment to discuss other potential resolves, it was clear that this was simply a punch back at the union. This was in direct relation to recent IAFF Trial Boards and decisions that had been handed down in Ontario. The new legislation prohibits the local and employer from penalizing or disciplining a two-hatter in any way. This new reality has forced us to refine our education regarding the activity of two-hatting and its impacts on members, and local affiliates. The current realities of the effects of working a 24-hour shift and the increased exposures for occupational disease and PTSD are very relevant health and safety considerations in this issue. Our members are taking a real risk with who will be deemed the “employer” for an occupational disease or PTSD claim for workers’ compensation. If it is the secondary employer (paid on-call employer), then the benefits available and the entitlement level are very different for the member and their family. Thus far, we have not witnessed an upswing in the number of two-hatters despite some fire chiefs actively recruiting. We will continue to educate our members using all forms of communication available and look long-term for a political fix. Ironically, the COVID-19 pandemic has employers asking our members who are two-hatting to cease, at least for the duration of the pandemic.

In 2019, the government was not finished with us. They acquiesced to pressure from municipalities and removed a regulation to required municipalities to publicly report their fire service against the definitions found in NFPA 1710. After months of participating at a “technical table” with the previous government, fire chiefs, and reps for our employers and finding an agreement on this reporting, this new government took an easy, and another, political punch.

On the flipside, there has been some recent positive tones coming out of the government. Following a cabinet shuffle, the new Minister of Labour seems more receptive to engaging labour groups, including the OPFFA. As well under the Ministry of Health and the Solicitor General, there have been reachouts to me for discussions about our Center of Excellence. The expectation is (prior to COVID-19) that the government was prepared to announce a mental health and addiction treatment center dedicated for first responders. Now, it’s a wait and see.

Throughout 2019, the Ford government had a lot of setbacks. The hard-edged and at times cruel politics has caught up to them. They had a disastrous budget, with major unexpected cuts for education and municipalities which had already set their budgets, sending many into unexpected turmoil. This was followed by a province-wide fight from parents with autistic children and a teacher strike. The polling numbers plummeted, which has forced the government to embarrassingly reverse course on many fronts. Oddly, the NDP, while the Official Opposition, has not appeared to take advantage of the Ford government’s tank in the polls with a bump for themselves. Rather, the Liberals have enjoyed a resurgence despite the fact there remains only seven MPPs and no official Party status. The Liberals have now elected a new leader for the Party, Steven Del Duca. He is a former Liberal Cabinet Minister and has a good relationship with our local from his riding and a good history with the OPFFA.

I expect the Ford government to rebound as a result of the COVID-19 crisis as they have performed well thus far. Will it be enough to forgive all the other missteps? The next few years will prove interesting in Ontario politics with the next election expected in June 2022.

In Manitoba, the right-wing Provincial government under Premier Pallister was re-elected to another majority in September 2019 (albeit losing a few seats). While it appears that this government will continue its path of dismantling public services under its austerity program, our locals have largely done well by maintaining a relationship with this government but more importantly have strong relationships at the local level. As with everywhere else, it will be interesting to see following the pandemic if austerity issues ramp up or if our governments remain benevolent for our most vulnerable citizens.

Local Politics

In the fall of 2018, we had municipal election district wide. Overall, we did well with strong local engagement, which has paid off for several locals in a variety of ways. Several locals across Ontario were able to secure long-term collective agreements despite the introduction of an employer-supported arbitration system. Others have had support during what could have been very tough budgets. In Winnipeg, specifically, that council went from closing a hall to adding a hall and staff while other departments across the City took a hit. Other areas saw new mayors enter and bad human resource directors or city managers exit resulting in new and better labour relations. The bottom line to all of this – elections matter!

The Ontario PFFA

This past year, the OPFFA embarked on a full strategic organizational review. This was a full top-down review, on service, political structure, office staff and finances. An external consultant was hired who conducted interviews of the membership, those delivering services for the OPFFA, staff, IAFF representatives and obviously the current OPFFA Executive Board. The consultant produced a very thorough document that basically had the organization look at itself from a blank piece of paper and ask itself the questions from who we are, why we exist and how we exist. The report was presented to the membership at the fall 2019 education seminar and was also cast out on the web for those not attending. The Executive worked for many hours with the Consultant following this to put the pieces together to get the OPFFA to its “ideal state.”

A Special Convention was called to set out a go forward political structure as well as authorizing the lead in work to hire an Executive Director and look at a Service Representative model similar to the IAFF. This was a big departure from the current OPFFA structure and method of doing business. Their regular Convention was scheduled for mid-June, with elections to take place, putting an emphasis on the Special Convention even more so. The Special Convention was scheduled for March 26 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Considering the importance of the business at hand for this Special Convention and the other time pressures on the decisions to be made, the OPFFA E Board decided to attempt to run this Convention in a virtual forum. Albeit the atmosphere and dynamics of the “convention floor” will not be present. These were outweighed by the fact that every affiliate will now be able to participate, and the important organizational decisions can be made (and recorded) to set the future course. The virtual Special Convention took place on April 23, 2020, and from all accounts was a success. A new political structure was adopted, moving from a 10-member E Board with three Principal Officers to a seven-member Board of Directors and two Principal Officers. The previous seven Districts were realigned to five zones with the Toronto local being its own zone. The zone alignment moved away from a geographical setup to being based on the number of locals and members per zone. This was accompanied by the adoption of a Service Representative model rather than the reliance on the District V/P being a “Jack of all trades.”

The OPFFA’s annual Convention, scheduled for the second week of June, had to be postponed due to the impacts on gatherings by the pandemic. However, the decision to proceed with electing a new Board of Directors under the new structure was adopted as per a Referendum Ballot of the locals. The election took place via a mail-in process and on July 3, 2020, I swore in the new OPFFA Board of Directors led by President Carmen Santoro and S/T Greg Horton.

This Board got to work immediately and prepared for a Convention to be held virtually to replace the annual Convention from June that was postponed. This convention was held on September 10, 2020, and again by all measures was a success. A budget was now in place for the new Service Representative model, which is now up and running as of this report, and they are currently doing a search for an Executive director.

President Santoro, who is a former OPFFA President, has quickly ramped up a stalled government relations program with the current Ford government. Meetings with top officials from all relevant Ministries and the Premier’s Office have been taking place and the OPFFA is once again getting their voice heard in the legislature. The Board is now preparing for a virtual Legislative Conference this November. This follows a virtual Educational Seminar they sponsored in early October, which had over 250 participants.

The OPFFA has truly adapted to this new way of doing business under the COVID-19 reality.

The Manitoba PFFA

From June 1-3, 202,0 the Manitoba PFFA held its Convention in person in Winnipeg, adhering to the gathering guidelines set out by their Provincial government. I was able to participate via Zoom as were the Principal Officers and AGP Scott Marks, all providing updates from our respective offices.

Long-time MPFFA President Dave Naaykens decided to step down following his retirement from the Winnipeg Fire Service. Dave will remain as Past President and continue to support our locals and the MPFFA. Alex Forest, current President of the Winnipeg Local 867 was acclaimed to the position of MPFFA President.

As well, Wade Ritchie the MPFFA S/T also did not seek re-election following his retirement from the Brandon Fire Service, and Travis Tannas from the Brandon local was acclaimed to the S/T position.

Both Dave and Wade were recognized for their long service to the MPFFA.

Sudbury Staffing Arbitration

On August 31, 2020, Arbitrator Jim Hayes issued the Board of Arbitration’s decision related to four-person staffing on frontline apparatus in the Sudbury Fire Service. This award issued just more than a year following the beginning of its hearing dates, which spanned multiple days in Sudbury and Toronto and concluded virtually in June. I was able to attend all hearing dates except for the final day of closing arguments (virtual session) due to an IAFF E Board meeting conflict.

The decision rules in favour of the local, stating the employer must have four fire fighters (inclusive of an Officer) on each frontline responding apparatus. This was the first time in decades that a staffing arbitration was heard, let alone successful. This was the first hearing in Canada to have NFPA 1710, 1720 and 1500 standards before a Board. As well, this was the first time that any of the scientific evidence from the NIST studies was put before a Board. This evidence was led by legal counsel Sean McManus (also IAFF CDN counsel) and the expert witness for the local in this regard was Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell. Dr. Moore-Merrell did a fantastic job walking the Board through the science and the relevance of the standards as they apply to fire fighter safety. She also upheld all arguments under very difficult cross examination. Also testifying on behalf of the local was a former Fire Chief who was directed by City Council to develop a report regarding the fire service in which he recommended four-person staffing on all frontline apparatus. Sean McManus deserves strong acknowledgement on his examinations in chief and his cross examination of the City’s expert witness, Gordon Routley and the Acting Deputy Chief.

The decision covered every possible angle and discounted previous unfavourable decisions and cited the employer’s responsibility to not only set the level of service but towards employee health and safety. This is truly a landmark decision that will be relied upon by many local across Canada (and possibly beyond) for many years to come.

While both the IAFF and OPFFA provided the local with some financial support, Sudbury Local 527 and now former President Kris Volpel (did not seek re-election) need to be recognized for carrying through on this protracted and very expensive initiative.

CLC Canadian Council

Following the retirement of DVP Emeritus Lorne West in 2016, I was appointed the IAFF representative on the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) Canadian Council. In my last Convention report, I updated you on the then recent disaffiliation of UNIFOR, Canada’s largest private sector union (approx. 300K members). Prior to their disaffiliation, there were accusations of raiding the Toronto local of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU). Those attempts were terminated early and those members working in the Toronto Transit Commission remain ATU members.

Immediately following their disaffiliation, UNIFOR was raiding UNITE HERE Local 75 in Toronto. Local 75 represents 8,500 downtown hotel workers across 24 bargaining units. In the end, UNIFOR successfully took eight bargaining units and about 900 members.

As well, the Carpenters left the CLC on their own accord. The resulting loss in per capita was $2.5 million annually. Both the Carpenters and UNIFOR remains disaffiliated as of the time of writing this report.

The CLC was able to largely absorb the massive loss of per capita by revising the operating budget to see the congress through until its next Convention. Amending the budget did not come without some internal pain with cuts in various budgets and loss of positions. This also resulted in a tough set of negotiations with CLC staff which saw them go on strike. Fortunately, the strike was short lived and with the assistance from some of the largest affiliates a resolve was found for the negotiations. Going forward, the CLC Canadian Council has adopted a resolution for Convention to increase the CLC per capita by two cents per year for three years beginning January 2021. This would take the CLC per capita from the current 75 cents to 77 cents in 2021, to 79 cents in 2022 and 81 cents in 2023. The last time per capita was raised was in 2004. Unlike the IAFF, the CLC does not have a COLA provision. If they did, the current per capita would be 94 cents. A telling statistic for all organizations. At an October 2020 Canadian Council meeting, the S/T’s report was far more favourable due to the travel restrictions of COVID-19, placing our budget in a much healthier position.

The CLC Convention was scheduled from May 4-8, 2020, in Vancouver. The CLC Canadian Council has voted to postpone the Convention due to COVID-19 related issues. This postponement includes the extension of the terms of the current officers. The current CLC President Hassan Youssef is not running for another term and will be retiring at the conclusion of the Convention. During our October virtual meeting of the Canadian Council, it was agreed that preparations begin to hold a virtual CLC Convention sometime in 2021. There are two members currently running for the position (President of the National Nurses union and an Executive member from the UFCW).

The biggest issue the CLC has taken on since my last report is National Pharmacare. This enjoys very high public support and we have a commitment from the current government act in this regard. As well, the CLC has launched issues in support of workers during this Covid-19 pandemic and an attack against the banks for not easing up on credit card interest rates.

Fighting Back

Following up on my previous Convention report, I joined the Ontario PFFA representative and legal counsel for the Deep River local to try and resolve the outstanding matters. As I previously reported, the company CNL (Canadian Nuclear Laboratories) proposed a longer term “Fire Service Agreement” (FSA) which saw the Town contract in certain administrative (Fire Chief), fire prevention and suppression services. This put the local in a good position to negotiate as they had solid contracting out language. Over two days, we successfully resolved to the local’s favour all 17 grievances that were before arbitration. In the agreement, we also provided job security while under the FSA. Should the agreement be terminated, then the local would be able to rely on its minimum staffing language in their collective agreement which would increase the staff from the current five to eight inclusive of four captains.

This was a great win for the local and the Town’s ability to provide fire services and step back without the pressure of grievances, etc., to review where they are and need to be regarding its fire service. The FSA has a term of three years and we are working with the local to try and negotiate an exit that gets them back on their own with a staffing of eight full-time members. I want to thank GP Schaitberger for his support under this program to help finance what needed to be done to save this local.

In Oshawa, Ontario, the then new local president has quickly turned into an experienced leader. He has developed, through the support of our IAFF Communications division, a comprehensive effort by the local to be the voice of public safety. This has given them the upper hand in the media and with public opinion regarding the need to increase staffing. The local also worked hard during the last municipal election to get supportive councilors onboard. We are now waiting for the final report from an external Consultant with their Fire Master Plan which contains recommendations to increase staffing. Soon it will be in the purview of council and the local continues its public efforts to ensure they get what the community requires. This issue began as a Fighting Back and has moved into a perfect example of what strategic communication can do.

The Winnipeg issue that was last reported regarding the lawsuit against the Winnipeg Free Press and its attack on Winnipeg Local 867 President Alex Forest remains before the courts.

Legal Guardian

This continues to be an invaluable program for our affiliate leaders. In all our cases, we have had incredible representation from the IAFF Canadian Legal Counsel Sean McManus.

In my last report, I referenced several cases with one at the time remaining outstanding. That involved St. Thomas, Ontario President Warren Scott. This involved Warren’s role as local president and having privileged conversations with a member versus how that intersects with his rank as a Fire Service Officer (Platoon Chief) and its responsibilities when workplace harassment is involved. Fortunately, through mediation, we were able to successfully dismiss any discipline against Warren and preserved his rights as a local president when off duty and acting within that role.

The next case comes out of Oshawa. The rise of local President Peter Dyson’s persona as a voice for public safety and his insistent approach on administration and city council to do the right thing regarding staffing has landed him in the Chief’s crosshairs. The Chief finally acted out and disciplined Peter and this has been an approved guardian case with Sean McManus representing Peter in the grievance process. At the mediation stage, within the local’s grievance process, the grievance was settled with all discipline being removed from Peter’s file.

One pending Guardian case lies with the City of Sudbury and former OPFFA President Rob Hyndman. Rob decided not to seek re-election and has an ongoing workers’ compensation claim for PTSD. Rob has been working towards a return to work where the City took the position that the OPFFA was a secondary employer and that Rob’s pay from the Sudbury Fire Service should be adjusted to reflect such. This would be a six-figure loss to Rob. The City has no basis for their argument as the Fire Administration approved fire fighter replacements for Rob to have the time off to conduct OPFFA business. At the time of writing this report, GP Schaitberger approved the Guardian Application but the City has not moved forward on their threats to adjust any salary.

IAFF FGS Program

This program continues to gain popularity across the District. Since the beginning, we have maintained control of the program and the mobile unit by not partnering with a specific fire service but rather our provincial affiliate. This control has been key to determining that only IAFF members become trained as Trainer Facilitators and the ability to move the unit around to various locals across the entire District rather than a specified radius around fire service.

We held a second Train the Trainer course in Pickering, Ontario. Since that time, we have expanded our qualified trainer facilitators and thus expanded the training opportunities. We have now trained well over 1,000 members in this program with fire services now scheduling the mobile unit during recruit training and annual refresher training for all members.

We had a third Train the Trainer course scheduled for the first week of June in Sudbury, but it was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have recently struck up conversations to reschedule the course under the IAFF’s new modified approach to these classes for late spring 2021.

IAFF Center of Excellence and Mental Behavioural Health

I worked closely with Advance Recovery Systems (ARS) and the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) to secure a guideline to allow our members who have recognized PTSD workers’ comp claims an opportunity to access our COE for treatment. To date, we have had one member attend – that being Ontario PFFA Past President Rob Hyndman who has been open about his journey. He speaks very highly of the treatment and environment at the COE.

ARS has made a significant investment in having Kelly Savage making presentations to employers across Ontario to educate them on the treatment opportunity we offer. We are the in the very early stages of planning an educational summit with ARS to be held in Ontario and to open it up to fire service administration, local and provincial government representatives, clinicians, and of course our affiliates. It is hope that our continual chipping away at this stone will result in a solid treatment opportunity and a hassle-free manner of taking it.

Recently, the provincial government has made overtures about establishing or building a treatment center for first responders. I have been nominated to sit on a Committee to help drive this initiative. Currently, it, like everything else, is on hold with the COVID-19 pandemic. Since this summer, we have engaged discussions with two treatment providers to explore the option of establishing a partnership for a COE in Canada or at least the treatment approach. The GP has joined the three Canadian DVPs and AGPs Scott Marks and Pat Morrison to lead these discussions. At the time of writing this report, I can say that the discussions have been very promising and it is my hope that in 2021 we will be able to announce a new partnership for our Canadian members.

IAFF Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial

Our District continues to recognize a high number of members being placed on our walls of honour in Colorado Springs each year at our FFFM event. In 2018, we recognized 60 members. In 2019, it was 37 with 29 identified for this year. While I am very proud of our presumptive legislation and its retroactivity to allow for our members to get properly recognized, the sheer numbers are a sad reminder of the toll our job has on so many of our members.

Each year, we have been able to cap off the event with a District family reception to allow family members from the same geographic area to come together following the memorial for a relaxed atmosphere, good food and share their thoughts with others who have dealt with the same emotions. It has proven to be very successful and well received by all who attend. However, as we all know, we had to divert to a very fitting virtual ceremony, but we look forward to recognizing everyone from this year along with 2021’s honourees.

2019 IAFF Canadian Policy Conference

I want to take this opportunity on behalf of District 13 to recognize the amazing hospitality of our St. John’s Newfoundland local. This was another terrific event capped off with an unexpected visit by Prime Minister Trudeau.

Conclusion

As you will note, it has been very active across the District on many fronts. I have been extremely proud of our affiliates and our provincial organizations on their continued high level of professionalism and dedicated representation for our members and their families.

This year has been an unusually controversial one within the IAFF. With allegations exchanged between the Principal Officers and others, the Executive Board established for the first time in our history an internal Ethical Practices Committee of five DVP.s. I was one of those selected to serve on this Committee, then later selected as the Committee’s Vice Chair.

I took this appointment very seriously as do all others. The difference being investigating our leadership. At the time of writing this report, our Committee’s work is not completed and only one partial report has been delivered to the E Board. While our Committee is bound by confidentiality on the issues before us (at least until reporting to the E Board), I can say that it is my hope that our report and recommendation will set a roadmap for our organization to move forward and the resulting enhanced engagement of the E Board will prove beneficial for us long term.

I have appreciated the votes of confidence from the District 13 affiliates for my participation on this Committee and everyone’s patience as they await our report. While I know many view this time as a dark time for our union internally, I know there will be a light at the end of this tunnel. What will prove interesting is how we as leaders will be measured on how we take the report’s findings and recommendations and either look to accept responsibility for our parts and advocate to improve our union or use the report to create more political fodder. Something to think about.

I have been very humbled to work alongside the best union representatives across the U.S. and Canada on our Executive Board. I want to acknowledge our unbelievable staff both at our Canadian office and our headquarters in Washington, DC, for their dedicated service as without it, we could not do our job in the manner our members expect and deserve.

I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to our General President Harold Schaitberger. GP Schaitberger’s body of work during a true lifetime of commitment to this union is incredible. The programs introduced under his leadership have touched our affiliates, the leadership, membership and our families in so many ways. From our Guardian policy, Frontline Policy, GIS mapping, Strategic Communications, WFI, SAFER Grants, Financial Corporation, Disaster Relief, and our COVID-19 response, to our PSOB in the U.S. and Community Heroes Fund in Canada, our Fallen Fire Fighters Memorial, and now our behavioural health initiatives and the Centre of Excellence. He has truly provided a holistic approach to our union which sets us apart from all others. I don’t know anyone who can match Harold’s energy and enthusiasm for our work. He wakes up every day trying to make our union better and that level of dedication is not just inspiring, it is infectious. Our staff respond to that example and work to take us to new heights and collectively all of us are the beneficiaries. I deeply appreciate everything I have learned from Harold; he is a mentor and a friend. We call our District the “Lucky 13th,” but we are all lucky to have known and served with him. On behalf of my wife Jackie and the entire membership in the Lucky 13th – thank you, and we wish you all the best!

As well, I want to recognize retiring 9th District V/P Ray Rahne. I have known Ray since before we both join the ranks of the IAFF E Board – in my role as OPFFA President and his as S/T for the Colorado State Association. Instantly, we hit it off and our journeys landed us as colleagues on the IAFF E Board. For me, Ray’s best characteristic (besides being a lot of fun) is he always knows what the right thing to do is, and he does it. He is blessed with a terrific wife Darlene who has supported his career, his first retirement, then his comeback as 9th DVP, and now his final retirement. Ray, you and Darlene are special friends and Jackie, me and all of us in the 13th wish you and Darlene all the best, and I know our paths will cross again.

Lastly, want to say thank you to my beautiful wife Jackie for her support as well as my grandson Eli for his patience while our work takes my attention away from him.