Mike Tasevski couldn’t get a job in his field after university, so he decided to run for mayor. The 23-year old Ryerson politics and governance graduate made the decision to enter the upcoming elections after a hockey game with his high school buddies.
Tasevski, who graduated in 2013, decided to run in January and officially announced his candidacy on Feb. 24. When he isn’t working as a full-time senior sales staff at a ski and snowboard supply store, Tasevski is out promoting his campaign.
“I volunteered to be the face of this campaign, but it’s all of us running it. There are lots of people in their early 20s who are dealing with what we’re dealing with,” Tasevski said. “We see school as this mill for getting jobs. But the job market is so dry right now. So why not take opportunities like this to build yourself?”
Tasevski said his family and friends were surprised by the announcement at first, but have been incredibly supportive since then. His best friend from high school and fellow Ryerson politics grad works as his political advisor. A friend in the Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCADU) photography program has shot campaign videos for his YouTube page. His girlfriend maintains his social media campaign accounts and is contacting all her friends to get the word out.
Heating up the campaign trail had never been in Tasevski’s plans before now. He thought he would apply to law school during his final year of university. But after hours in Ryerson’s guidance office, however, he realized that he wasn’t ready for another round of schooling. Instead, he travelled to Europe and Australia after university in order to figure out his next move.
Tasevski’s current game plan is promoting his 2014 mayoral campaign, but on a very limited budget. His strategy, unlike mayoral candidates who can raise up to $1 million for their campaigns, is to use as many free tools as he can. Tasevski is relying on social media to get the word out. He is also relying on his network of
Ryerson students and alumni, friends and family for support. Currently, he lives with his family in Scarborough and his parents have also been working to promote his campaign.
Girlfriend and current Ryerson student Nicky Markus said that even if Tasevski doesn’t win, it’s still valuable to show students that they can have a voice in politics. She said it’s also important to show there are politicians that students can identify with.
“If you don’t vote for Michael, then educate yourself about the candidate you do vote for. Michael is taking and applying the important things from what he’s learned over the past four years,” Markus said. “I hope by doing so, we can shed some light on the issues in this city and its politics for people our age.”
Toronto councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam agrees that the youth vote is important, especially when it comes to the upcoming election.
“There is a lot of cynicism out there for politicians like myself to speak to a youth audience and voter engagement – whether it’s an election year or not,” she said. “It’s critical for mayor. How do you put out a platform that will speak to young people and then (consider) how will you get young people involved?”
For Tasevski, the campaign is also a way for him to make his own way after graduation and to invest in a city that he’s passionate about. He said that he hopes to change the political system so that young people are involved and feel represented.
Tasevski is among the youngest candidates of the upcoming 2014 mayoral election, though he is beaten by recently registered high school student, Morgan Baskin, who is 18-years-old. The youngest mayor in Canada to date was nineteen-year-old Clayton Smith, who was elected in New Norway, Alberta in 1994.
“It’s great to see that young people are running. That’s really brave, because this can be a threatening and intimidating process, like swimming in the shark tank,” says fellow candidate Robb Johannes. “There’s this patronizing that happens, where youth are left out of the process and talked down to. But I think there is great learning to be gained from young people.”
This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on March 12, 2014.