Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hope you did your part to allow democracy to shine

Nobody worth voting for? That's not the point; be happy we can make a difference

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Pasquale Loscerbo came to Canada in 1952. The Italian immigrant worked hard to start a new life and put food on the table.

He remembers earning 16 cents an hour in his first job. Now, he says, when he wants to hire someone to shovel his snow they want 30 bucks for their efforts.

He shakes his head. There's much the 85-year-old doesn't understand about modern society. Poor manners, the operation of our civic government and a lack of pride in your neighbourhood are among his complaints.

But Mr. Loscerbo loves his adopted country. It is a place that allowed him to work hard and succeed beyond his dreams. He founded Pasquale's restaurant, a mainstay for Winnipeg families looking for a decent meal. He sold the business in 1977 but his family had a good life because of his efforts.

So there he was Monday morning, bundled up against the cold, manoeuvring his power scooter up the ramp and into Oakenwald School. It's just up the street from his house but he could have easily used age or infirmity as an excuse not to vote.

He wouldn't think of it.

"I vote because I can," he says in a low, rough voice. "I've never missed one. I think we should respect what makes Canada great."

But that's not the Canadian way, is it? It's not the way of political campaigns. We forget to feel grateful for what we have. We listen to candidates snipe and watch them posture. We think that's what government looks like.

We don't demand better. We forget that we're the ones hiring the politicians. They should be impressing us.

There's no guarantee the people or party we support will be elected. Staying home on the couch makes it more likely they won't be.

Monday morning, I talked to a couple of seniors outside Maples Collegiate. They had just cast their ballots.

"There's nobody worth voting for," the husband complained. "There's no pizzazz."

He still drove to the polling station.

His wife said she was hoping for a change in government. She was doing her bit. They were seniors and, I suppose, had a little more free time than the average person. But they also come from a generation that understood voting wasn't just a right, it was a privilege.

You talk to some older people and they'll still tell you that soldiers went off to war to guarantee our right to choose our leaders. You talk to the families of today's warriors and you'll hear the same thing.

Think back to the election in Zimbabwe, where tens of thousands of people stood for hours in the sun to decide whether or not President Robert Mugabe would be ousted. Think back to 1994 when many South Africans were allowed to vote for the first time.

This is when democracy is allowed to breathe, to shine, where there is a value to a vote. In many cases, heartache has preceded the moment when a finger is inked and pressed on rough paper or an X is scratched.

We don't fully understand that here, have never had to consider we might have to fight for our place in a voting booth. We devalue our vote ourselves.

Mr. Loscerbo says he pays a lot of taxes and that gives him the right to vote. He's correct, but that's not the only reason.

"I know this country more than anyone else," he says. "I am here and I'm happy. I pick this country. I'm here and I love it here."

There's a Canadian flag on the back of his scooter. I ask if it's there to show his patriotism.

He laughs.

"It's there so no one runs me over," he says. Then he gets serious.

"Canada is the best nation in the world right now. I vote for who I vote for. But I want Canada to stay great."

Mr. Loscerbo is not alone. I can only hope you joined him in choosing your vision for our country.

lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 3, 2011 A1

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About Lindor Reynolds

National Newspaper Award winner Lindor Reynolds began work at the Free Press as a 17-year-old proofreader. It was a rough introduction to the news business.

Many years later, armed with a university education and a portfolio of published work, she was hired as a Free Press columnist. During her 20-plus years on the job she has written for every section in the paper, with the exception of Business. She’ll get around to them some day.

Lindor has received considerable recognition for her writing. Her awards include the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ general interest award and the North American Travel Journalists Association top prize.
Her work on Internet luring led to an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada and her coverage of the child welfare system prompted a change to Manitoba Child and Family Services Act to make the safety of children paramount.

She has earned three citations of merit for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism and has been awarded a Distinguished Alumni commendation from the University of Winnipeg. Lindor was also named a YMCA/YWCA  Woman of Distinction.

She is married with four daughters. If her house was on fire and the kids and dog were safe, she’d grab her passport.
 
lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

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