“So I guess Christmas isn’t happening.”
Yesterday, like most days, I spent lunch at my kitchen table, feeding my newborn and watching the Ontario government’s daily press conference (a luxury of being on maternity leave).
The big news of the day had already leaked: new projections estimating that Ontario’s COVID case count may reach 6,500 new cases per day by mid-December. Other numbers had not yet been released. How many more people do we expect to die by then? How many more people will face the lingering post-COVID health impacts we are just now learning about?
Julie He understands politics having studied it and lived it in a way not many people will, which gives her a strong understanding of the importance it carries.
Julie came to Canada as an immigrant in 2011 having been born and raised in China, which is also where she studied up until coming to London to study political science.
While in China, Julie learn all the general ideas about politics — with naturally a special focus on the politics in China — but they also touched upon some of the big ideas about democracy and some of the practice that foreign governments use.
In her studies, Julie was always interested in the idea of public engagement and how a government forms policy through directly speaking with its people.
“That part was missing in China. I had experience when I was in Taiwan, people really practicing democracy,” she said. “I thought that was always really interesting. Interesting in terms of, how do you do that? I found it really helpful.”
Yola Ventresca comes from an immigrant background — both sides of her family came to Canada from Lebanon — and so she knows the reality of living in a state where law has broken down and political institutions have been corrupted.
Those circumstances are “very recent memory in my family’s collective history” and as such, politics has always signified to her something not to be taken for granted.
Having lost her aunt and uncle in the Lebanese civil war, she understands the need to stand up and be heard.
“Politics for me is very real and also very much part of what I see as my responsibility as a citizen to get involved,” Yola said. “We like to think we’re very far away from that kind of society, but the reality is history is long and if you don’t heed lessons, they’ll come back.”
Her political activism is one of what she describes as “several points of interaction” she shares with Kate Graham, who is running in the upcoming provincial election in the riding of London North Center under the Liberal Party of Ontario banner.
Both women were named — albeit in different years — to the Top 20 Under 40 — and both are active around issues of health care and women’s rights.
Gus Economopoulos has always been interested in talking politics, a desire that has come in handy as he has chatted up customers from just about every political stripe over the 28 years he’s owned Richies Family Restaurant.
“All my life, it was my interest in the way democracy works,” Gus said. “Every four years you have a choice about changing the government if you think they’re not doing a good job or keeping them on if they’re doing a good job. As a businessman too, you’re always paying attention to what’s going on.”
In the restaurant business, Gus is used to having customers coming in who hold varying political views. And like any good host, he’s more than ready to interact with all of them.
That conversation is an opportunity he readily admits to learning a lot from.
“The thing is, people from all parties, all political ideas come here. I enjoy speaking to everyone and getting all their opinions,” Gus said. “This is very much a neighbourhood place where everyone can come in and share their thoughts.”
It wasn’t just civic-minded customers Gus would have political chats with as his staff were also involved.
One particular former staff member, London North Centre candidate Kate Graham, worked for Gus for several years.
Nancy Poole has grown up with a strong connection to the political discourse of the Forest City.
The foundation for Nancy’s life-long involvement in politics stems from the talk that typically took place around the dining room table.
“Politics, it seems to me, has been a part of my life since I was six years old when I realized my father was going to vote for one man and my mother was going to vote for another,” she said. “I was brought up in a politically divided, but very tolerant, household.”
Nancy recalls her father’s insistence the dining room table was a place for conversation and discussion.
It was either history — Canadian or British — or politics. It was more history, she said, but the history would often move into a political sphere.
Nancy, who turns 88 this May, is also quick to praise the “quite remarkable teachers” she had growing up. During the Second World War, for instance, she recalls their insistence on having daily conversations with the students in the classroom around what was going on in the world.