Meet the 18-year-old who thinks she can be Toronto's next mayor
Morgan Baskin, 18, is running to become Toronto's next mayor. The high school student says she thinks she can win by bringing a new voice to municipal politics and vowing to end the divisive politics she says has plagued the city for far too long. (Zoe Gemelli)
Daniel Bitonti, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, March 10, 2014 4:23PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, March 10, 2014 7:27PM EDT
Morgan Baskin doesn’t try to hide the fact that she’s 18.
She readily admits on a Monday afternoon that she’s still at home in her pajamas -- it’s her March Break, mind you.
But while she’s off school this week, it’s not really a break at all: Baskin is busy running her campaign to become Toronto’s next mayor.
The high-school student filed her papers on Feb. 28, paying the $200 required to enter the race.
"Of course this is real,” she said in a phone interview with CTVNews.ca. “Two hundred dollars is a lot of money when you’re 18. I would not have filed if it wasn’t for real.”
Toronto’s municipal election, slated for Oct. 27, will certainly be one of the most closely followed in the city’s history. Heavyweight candidates like former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader John Tory and former TTC chair and current city councillor Karen Stintz have already thrown their hats in the ring. NDP MP Olivia Chow is expected to announce her candidacy any day. And then there’s a guy named Rob Ford.
But Baskin says she honestly believes she can win by bringing a new voice to municipal politics and vowing to end the divisive politics she says has plagued the city for far too long.
"There were definitely a lot of people who were super skeptical," Baskin said about her decision to enter the race. "But when you’re 18, you hear a lot about what you can’t do, about what young people can’t do. And for me I couldn’t answer the question, why not run? I want to get young people involved. I feel that I can do it."
Baskin says being young shouldn’t automatically disqualify her from the job. She says she’s had more experience than merely attending school and hanging out with friends: She says she’s been a Cub Scout leader, and has also been active in the Anglican Church.
And Baskin says her lack of political experience also means she carries no political baggage. In her estimation, City Hall is already packed with too many career politicians and business leaders.
"A lot of those people are already going to be elected to City Hall on Oct. 27. And I don’t think it could ever be a bad thing to have one more point of view, one more voice coming from a completely different place."
Baskin has already released her platform on her campaign website. One of the central planks is ending the urban-suburban divide that she says has infected council chambers ever since Toronto and its suburbs were amalgamated in 1998.
"We did amalgamation and a lot of people were really unhappy about that, and then we never really addressed that. There are a lot of different neighbourhoods in the city with lots of different needs," she said. "We just kind of let our own personal needs and selfishness gets in the way. And you can see it in arguments during city council meeting."
But Baskin says she’s also a realist, too. When it comes to transit, she says Toronto desperately needs a downtown relief transit line, and says the city can’t do that without tax increases, as is the case with other infrastructure projects and services.
"The problem with inflation is that not raising taxes actually becomes a tax decrease, because property values do go up," she said. "We don’t have any progressive revenue tools: We rely on property taxes for the most part and we have to rely on what federal and provincial governments gives us. We have a debt already, so let’s not be impractical."
Baskin knows that having virtually no name recognition will provide its challenges in her mayoral bid.
She says, at the end of the day, she’s just an average 18-year-old whose parents still bug her about getting out of bed, cleaning her room and getting good marks.
"But I think it’s really awful that people who can raise $1.3 million in eight months are the people who get elected and not necessarily the best person for the job," Baskin said, referring to the approximate limit candidates will be able to spend on their campaigns in 2014. Baskin says she plans to do a lot of campaigning in coffee shops and by hitting the streets.
Baskin has applied to university for the fall, but says she still isn’t sure whether she’ll attend -- even if she fails in her mayoral bid.
For now, she says her focus is on her campaign, adding that even if she’s blown out of the water on Oct. 27, her campaign has already been successful.
"For me, it’s about the people who tell me ‘I told my parents about you and we talked about politics for two hours,'" she said. "Those conversations are happening because of what I’m doing, and for me that kind of makes it all worth it."