A retired firefighter says the latest controversy over a firefighter's suspension is causing even more friction between the city of Corner Brook and the firefighters' union.

Geoff Sparkes, president of the Corner Brook firefighters association, was handed a one-week unpaid suspension after the association ran an advertisement in The Western Star urging residents to ask municipal election candidates about public and firefighter safety.

Three other local union leaders received warning letters.

Former firefighter John Evans, who is also running for Corner Brook city council, said ads like the one at the centre of the controversy is nothing new.

"It didn't seem that bad to me. Everyone's allowed to have their own say," Evans said.

"We used to run ads all the time saying we need more firefighters, better coverage, we need more equipment," Evans added. "We used to have signs, posters up, going door to door — we did it all thinking about the election." 

Evans said the ad seemed minor in comparison to other tactics used by the union in the past.

"That's only a joke compared to what we used to put in the paper. We were trying to keep our jobs, we even walked to city hall one time from the fire station to city hall carrying a casket. [We] brought it down, put it on city hall steps — might as well bury the fire department, you're killing everybody — we used to say," Evans said. 

Adding fuel to the fire

The city of Corner Brook refused to comment on the matter, but the city's firefighters union and the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) said in a statement released Thursday that they would fight back against the suspension with possible legal action.

Evans said the fighting is adding unnecessary strain to an already stressful job. 

"All this turmoil is on the go now, it's causing conflict with them, and they got to go out on a call like that and they got other things on their minds," Evans said. "It's not good for them." 

This is not the first time the city and its firefighters have had friction between them.

Last year, the city and union narrowly avoided a strike by signing a contract at the eleventh hour, and just minutes after that signing, the city cut four firefighter positions.

Evans said that is still a sore point with the local force, adding to the bitterness of the current battle between the two groups.