Morgan Baskin is 18 years old. She lives in the downtown neighbourhood of Corktown and is set to graduate from high school in June. She likes to read and says she probably watches too much TV – or used to, anyway.
And, oh yeah, she’s running to be the next mayor of Toronto.
Baskin registered to run earlier this month and since then has faced a steady barrage of attention. The spotlight is always a good thing for an aspiring politician, but I’ve been wondering if the coverage hasn’t been portraying her only as a novelty – a wannabe teen mayor.
When Baskin and I meet for an interview, I start out by asking her about that: does she worry about being cast as nothing more than the political equivalent of Doogie Howser?
“I do,” she tells me. “But to some extent I’m OK with my age getting me in the door because it’s going to be my politics that keeps me there.”
So we talk about her politics. I ask the same questions I’d ask any mayoral candidate.
She stresses the need for what transit nerds call the “downtown relief line” – though she says that subway is “really about moving people in the suburbs better.” She’s pro-development as long as it creates opportunities and protects heritage. And she’s concerned that property taxes remain the city’s main revenue stream.
Mostly, though, Baskin highlights the importance of listening to experts – something she feels has been lacking at city hall lately. “We need to ask the people who know,” she says. “Let’s look at a bunch of different plans, weigh the pros and cons, and say yes to one – as soon as possible.”
Sounds simple, but city hall hasn’t exactly been known for making speedy decisions. Baskin chalks that up to one of the centrepieces of her campaign – an ugly urban-suburban divide that she wants to fix.
“There’s underlying resentment about where people live and how much money they make and how much money people in their wards make and it’s just unhelpful. And it’s been affecting every single decision.”
Her passion for being mayor is most clear when she talks about the divide, but it’s not until I ask her what the average 18 year old thinks about this city that I begin to understand why she’s running.
“I think the average 18 year old is mostly unhappy,” she says. “For a lot of reasons. We’ve kind of been given a road map and a destination that are unachievable and completely irrelevant to our lives.”
She talks of how pensions and home ownership seem impossible for young people to achieve in today’s economy. And she talks about how frustrating it is when older politicians write off the youth vote while talking up young people as the “leaders of tomorrow.”
“We don’t have time to wait around to be the leaders of tomorrow,” Baskin says. “We’re the leaders of today. And you need to let us do that and listen to us. Youth just want to be listened to.”
Morgan Baskin’s key policies
On transit: Build the relief subway line, but don’t forget about improved bus service and the importance of the streetcar network.
On development: Protect heritage, but don’t reject developments that can provide opportunities to create neighbourhoods “with businesses, culture, city services and living space.”
On listening to the experts: Politicians aren’t urban planners, engineers, environmental planners or traffic experts. She says politicians should listen to those people when making decisions.
On the urban-suburban divide: She’s invested in the future of the city as a whole and wants to bring the suburbs and downtown together. “It’s about the whole city’s health and if a part of this city is unhealthy, the whole city is unhealthy.”
On the youth vote: Baskin says it’s possible to increase voter turnout among the 18-34 demographic. “If everyone’s always saying: ‘Youth don’t vote,’ then youth don’t vote. If we say: “Youth need to vote, youth care, youth can vote,’ then youth will vote.” Early signs are promising: “I’ve gotten the kind of e-mails that are like: ‘I’m 24, I’ve never voted for anything before, but you’ve inspired me to vote. You’ve told me I matter.’”
This post was originally published at http://www.metronews.ca/news/toronto/2014/03/18/meet-morgan-baskin-shes-18-years-old-and-wants-to-be-torontos-next-mayor.html on 2014-03-18T00:00:00.000Z