By Peter Sells
March 18, 2009
A quick look at the sports culture in the U.S. and Canada:
Baseball – played on a field featuring a mound of dirt;
NASCAR – races are run on tracks with steep banks;
Football – the field is slightly crowned to allow drainage;
Golf – don’t we all wish that the greens were perfectly flat?
Soccer – see football, above.
By Peter Sells
So it seems that the quintessential Canadian
favourites, ice hockey and curling, are the only sports with a level playing
Now, if you will forgive me for that intro, I will
draw a contrast between our respective sporting and fire-service cultures. The
news from our neighbours to the south this week included the vice president,
the speaker of the House and several other prominent Democrats speaking at the
IAFF legislative conference in Washington.
Partly a biennial payback for support from IAFF locals and partly a statement
of intent on how the new administration plans to fund fire service initiatives,
these speeches highlight one of the greatest inequities between our two
countries. The American federal government maintains programs and agencies to
encourage the development of safe and effective fire services across its
territory. The Canadian government does
nothing to level the playing field among communities that can afford top-notch
fire protection and those that cannot. The Americans have the U.S. Fire
Administration and the National Fire Academy, open
to all and well funded. We have nothing at the federal level with which to even
draw a comparison.
Let’s face it – we are not a priority right now.
Even if we could ignore the facts that we are in a deep economic hole and in
the middle of a war, fire protection is not and never has been near the top of
the legislative agenda. Stephane Dion (remember him?) made a promise that a
Liberal government would go ahead with the creation of a National Fire
Advisor’s office, but he could have promised a Beatles reunion for all the good
it would have done him at the polls. And all the while, about 35 per cent more Canadians
each year die by fire than by firearms, not including suicides (using figures
from Statistics Canada). Fire kills 30 Canadians for every one who dies in an
avalanche, but which got more attention in the last year?
So here is your turn to talk; what are we not doing
to get the attention of our government, our media and the people we protect? What
can we do to level the playing field? We need to get in the corners and fight
for the puck. We need to hurry – hard!
And since this is March, let’s not forget that the
other big American sport – basketball – also makes use of a level playing
field. After all, it was invented by a Canadian!