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April 11, 2014, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – Our jobs are filled with emotions: some good, some bad and yesterday, for me, there were a spectrum of feelings after hearing of the death of former finance minister Jim Flaherty, who died suddenly Thursday afternoon at his Ottawa home.

April 11, 2014
By Rob Evans

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April 11, 2014, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – Our jobs are filled with emotions: some good, some bad and yesterday, for me, there were a spectrum of feelings after hearing of the death of former finance minister Jim Flaherty, who died suddenly Thursday afternoon at his Ottawa home.

I read the first tweet on Flaherty’s death just before noon (MST), before running out to get some parts for one of our brush trucks. Immediately I was filled with a profound sense of loss; a feeling that many would reserve for close friends.

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Fire Chief Rob Evans and former finance minister Jim Flaherty at the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs’ government relations week.
Photo by Rob Evans.

I first met Flaherty during Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs’ (CAFC) Government Relations (GR) week in March 2011. While I was having an exceptional time attending meetings and learning from my fire service mentors, I was extremely disappointed to learn I wouldn’t be meeting with my MP because of preparations for the upcoming budget reading. That disappointment did not last long as Flaherty extended to me an invitation to view the reading. I remember being so proud to represent the Canadian fire service in the House of Commons during the budget reading, which included the volunteer firefighter tax credit. At a reception after the reading, I met a number of Canada’s political leaders, including Flaherty. As you can imagine, he was very busy but took the time to speak with me and other chiefs who attended the budget reading. The following night, the CAFC held a reception in the Speaker’s Lounge. Flaherty, along with other ministers and MPs, attended the reception and Flaherty spent even more time talking with all of us chiefs. As I almost always do, I had my camera in front of my face more often than I had it on a table or hanging from my shoulder, and I got some great pictures of my friends with many of the MPs.

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Fire Chief Vince MacKenzie and former finance minister Jim Flaherty at the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs’ government relations week.

During GR week the following year, I went through all of my meetings and at the end of a successful couple of days, the CAFC again hosted a reception in the Speaker’s Lounge. And again, I met Flaherty. Without missing a beat he asked, “Where’s your camera?” I really could not believe that Canada’s finance minister had remembered me that well, but he had. That made a huge impression on me and proved to me just how good a person he really was. The hand shakes and discussions he had with all of us were real, not just a politician chatting us up.

Following 2012, Flaherty’s health began to decline and when I saw him in 2013 the toll that a serious skin condition had taken on him was evident. He was still smiling but you could tell it was a struggle for him to do so through the pain. I was again invited to attend a budget reading in the House and he quickly said hello to me, although he had to move along quickly and prepare.

Just one month ago Flaherty resigned from cabinet and the caucus of the government. It was the week before we travelled to Ottawa for the 2014 installment of GR week and at the time I was a little bit selfish. I had hoped to meet up with him again to chat. He certainly was not the biggest man in the room – he often made light of his size – but he sure commanded a room. Everyone liked the man. And at a time like this, the man is all we should be talking about.

In 2011 he listened to all parties and supported Canada’s volunteer firefighters. Yesterday, many of those same politicians who were at that budget reading in 2011 ignored a line on the floor to show support for the each other when they lost the man, a great man – a great Canadian – in an unprecedented show of emotion in the House. The Canadian fire service should once again thank the man, not only for what he did for the firefighters of this country, but for Canada as a whole.

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Jim Flahery receives his honourary helmet at the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs’ government relations week.
Photo by Rob Evans.

Rob Evans is the chief fire officer for Redwood Meadows Emergency Services, 25 kilometres west of Calgary. Evans attended the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in 1989 and studied photojournalism. In 1992, he joined RMES after taking pictures of an interface fire and making prints for the department. He has his NFPA 1001 level II certification, NFPA 472 Operations and Awareness (hazmat), NFPA 1041 level I (fire service instructor), Dalhousie University Certificate in Fire Service Leadership and Certificate in Fire Service Administration and is a registered Emergency Medical Responder with the Alberta College of Paramedics. He lives in Redwood Meadows with his wife, a captain/EMT with RMES, and three children. Follow him on Twitter at @redwoodwoof


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