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The vote and the beach

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Over the Labour Day weekend I quizzed my beach friends about the upcoming Oct. 4 provincial election, and about how much they knew about Manitoba politics.

I asked because I value their opinions. They are all in middle age, have good families and responsible jobs. Two save lives in our hospitals. Two make sure your money is safely invested and one toils in upper management at a big company on Main Street near Portage Avenue.

Through our discussions, it became clear to me that for them, politics this election doesn’t matter. They say they’ll vote, but my guess is whether they do or not will depend on what else is going on in their lives that day.

Their family commitments, the swimming lessons, volleyball practices, appointments, making meals, grocery shopping and checking into their parents’ well-being, takes up all of each day. Squeezing time in to vote on Oct. 4 will be just that.

Some work long shifts in the hospitals and another commutes to Toronto for work a couple of times each month. Another is single, and the demands on her time are twice as much.

Like other families, they’re busy, and it consumes their lives.

Even taking time out to read the paper or watch the TV news takes too much time.

The other thing is that for them, politics overall just doesn’t matter. At any level.

"They’re all just the same anyway," one said in describing the differences between the three major parties.

Her husband said while he follows provincial politics to a limited extent, he couldn’t name five pieces of legislation the NDP passed in its 12 years in government.

That’s not because the information wasn’t there or the government hadn’t done anything; it was because it didn’t matter to him to find out. And it wasn’t out of cynicism or apathy. It had more to do with disinterest, that there was something more important he could be doing.

There was a time when Canadians did pay more attention to politicians and what was going on in the Manitoba legislature or Parliament.

I remember my dad telling me about when the people went in droves to see John Diefenbaker when he spoke in the city in the late '50s and early '60s. I’ve attached the Free Press coverage of a speech in 1962 at the Winnipeg Auditorium, now the provincial archives building across from The Bay parkade. A couple of years later my parents got me Diefenbaker’s autograph when they met him on a cruise. I think I was threeyears-old at the time.

What my dad said was the many people just went to hear the man speak. Political rallies were just that, not the carefully scripted roadshows they are now.

Then, there was something that captured the imagination, he told me. They made you feel good.

Now?

Now it’s rare when a politician’s words capture my full and undivided attention.

Here at the Freep, we’ve put a lot of effort into our Democracy Project. The goal is to get more people to vote Oct. 4.

After listening to my dad and talking to my beach friends, that’s going to be a tall order.

I hope I’m wrong.

 

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

 

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About Larry Kusch and Bruce Owen

Larry Kusch has been a journalist for 30 years, the last 20 with the Winnipeg Free Press. His is one of the newspaper's two legislative bureau reporters.

Raised on a Saskatchewan farm, he received an honours journalism degree from Carleton University in 1975.

At the Free Press, Larry has also worked as a general assignment reporter, business reporter, copy editor and assistant city editor.

Bruce Owen joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1990 after four years working in other media.

He's worked in a number of positions at the Freep, including pet columnist, assistant city editor and police reporter. Right now he takes up space at the Manitoba legislature.

Bruce is one of five reporters who won a National Newspaper Award for the paper’s coverage of the 1997 Flood of the Century. He's also the recipient of the 1996 Volunteer Centre of Winnipeg Media Golden Hand Award and the 1995 Canadian Federation of Humane Societies Media Commendation Award.

In a past life Bruce worked at YMCA-YWCA Camp Stephens. He has a blog where he and others write about camp and the people who worked and played there.

You can also find Bruce on Twitter where he posts and retweets all sorts of stuff.

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