In the 1950’s my maternal Portuguese grandfather came over to Canada to start a better life for his family. He left behind my maternal grandmother (or as we know her, Vovo) in the Azores with two small children. Two years passed before Vovo travelled across the ocean with two small children all on her own and reunited with her husband in the small northern Ontario town of Foleyet.
Together they started a restaurant and got involved in the community. My Vovo took an interest in politics and was Liberal to her core. When I got involved in politics myself, I could tell she was proud. Afterall, this was a woman who could recite all of Canada’s Prime Ministers and who still cursed Diefenbaker decades after he had left power.
My Vovo was what my sisters and I call an ‘IW’ – an independent woman who was interested in the community around her, had lots of opinions, and spoke her mind. She was also a big fan of Kathleen Wynne.
As I headed to a political event in Windsor last year with many young Liberals and the Premier, my mother called me to tell me Vovo had had a stroke. On June 7, 2013 Vovo passed away. On June 12, 2013, we held her funeral.
One year to the day that we said our final goodbyes to Vovo, Kathleen Wynne became the first elected woman Premier on a plan first put forward in her budget by the first Portuguese treasurer in Ontario history, Charles Sousa. I spent the day helping pull vote for Cristina Martins, Ontario Liberal Candidate for Davenport and a Portuguese Canadian.
Standing just a few feet from where the Premier would deliver her victory speech, I read an email from my mother that brought me to tears. I cried out of happiness, out of pride, and out of thanks for everything that my Vovo and people like her had done to create an Ontario where a Portuguese person could be treasurer, a woman could be premier, and someone like me could have a role in this campaign and be present at the moment it all came to fruition.
Mom wrote in her email: “Congratulations on your majority! Vovo would be proud. Love you tons. – Mom”. Moments later I watched as the Premier gave her victory speech which included a line from her thank you message to volunteers sent out earlier in the night that I had the privilege to write. I wish I could tell Vovo about how I felt in that moment.
I’m sad that Vovo was not able to see this moment happen. But I am so glad that she and countless others helped create a province where I was able to. I can only hope that the work I have the privilege to do in the days to come will help create an Ontario that will have as much of a positive impact on its people as the one we live in now.