IAFF leader Jim Lee was elected as a city councillor in his hometown of Oshawa, Ontario, following an election campaign that focused on community advancement and public safety.
In a statement released shortly after his victory, Lee said he was honoured to earn the trust of his constituents. “As a new voice on city council, I look forward to learning, collaborating, and bringing my community dedication and expertise to the City of Oshawa,” he said, also thanking his family and friends and Oshawa Local 465 for its support.
Retiring as a district chief from the Toronto Fire Service in 2002, Lee was involved in his union for almost 40 years, earning a reputation as a tireless advocate for fire fighter and public safety.
He first served as an Executive Board member, vice president, and president of the former North York local before serving as president of the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association and the Toronto Professional Fire Fighters Association.
In 2002, Lee was appointed Assistant to the General President for Canadian Operations and oversaw the IAFF Canadian Office for eight years before relocating to Washington, D.C., to serve the IAFF as chief of operations and later chief of staff before retiring in 2019.
“Jim Lee is a natural leader and a champion of fire fighter and public safety,” said IAFF General President Edward Kelly. “Congratulations to Jim and to Oshawa Local 465 on this tremendous achievement. There is no greater election victory than electing one of our own.”
Lee took a third of the vote in Oshawa’s Ward 2 in a crowded field of six candidates. Having his expertise and his voice at the table will be a tremendous asset for Local 465 and others who are advocating better fire protection and emergency response in the city.
Located just east of Toronto on the north shore of Lake Ontario, Oshawa is a fast-growing city of 170,000 people. In 2017, the city reduced frontline staffing. Since then, Oshawa Local 465 has mounted a focused campaign to persuade the city to prioritize fire fighter and public safety.
During this municipal election campaign, Local 465 registered as a third party (Public Safety Professionals for a Safe Oshawa), endorsing Jim Lee and other candidates who were committed to improving fire department capabilities in the city. Local 465 members and members from nearby IAFF locals supported the campaign with door knocking, flyers, and other assistance. Three of Oshawa Local 465’s other endorsed candidates were successful.
“I’m thrilled – it’s a new day for us,” Oshawa Local 465 President Peter Dyson said following the election. Dyson thanked Kelly, General Secretary-Treasurer Frank Líma, and 13th District Vice President Fred LeBlanc for overseeing the IAFF’s unwavering support and assistance during the campaign.
“Jim’s election gives us a voice at the table when public safety is discussed. Jim is a fire fighter, he’s a union leader. He’s one of us,” Dyson said, adding other municipal unions were excited to see a councillor with a labour background elected.