From hallways to city hall: young people run for office

Ryerson graduate Michael Tasevski, 23, thinks he has what it takes to be Toronto's next mayor. (Photo Facebook)

Ryerson graduate Michael Tasevski, 23, thinks he has what it takes to be Toronto’s next mayor. (Photo Facebook)

Fresh off the United States leg of his magical media tour, Toronto Mayor Rob Fords should be gearing up for his re-election campaign right about now.

But as we inch closer to the much anticipated Oct. 27, we have to wonder what effect Ford’s media presence is having on his chances – and his competition.

Ford likes to think of himself as a regular guy.

He told Jimmy Kimmel that Toronto didn’t elect him to be perfect, and perfect he certainly has not been. His admission to smoking crack cocaine is the main event in a long line of scandals and drama, both personal and political.

Though many find him entertaining enough to elect again and others would vote for anybody except him, the potential that Ford does not return to office has opened up a hole in the running for the ultimate alternative candidate.

The anti-Ford, if you will. You may think Olivia Chow, poised to run, will be the perfect opposition.

Or maybe you’re intrigued by 23-year-old Michael Tasevski, fresh out of Ryerson, jobless and itching to run a city, sporting snazzy suits and praising the powers of social media.

The Ryersonian’s Bethany Van Lingen profiled him on our front page, exploring the start of his campaign and how he might be the perfect candidate to keep the younger generation’s interest at the forefront of his campaign.

“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,” said Tasevski’s girlfriend on our front page. “I hope by doing so, we can shed some light on the issues in this city and its politics for people our age.”

Even younger than Tasevski is the recently announced candidate who is still working on receiving her high school diploma.

Morgan Baskin, who seems to be taking her campaign very seriously for an 18-year-old, is still throwing in gems on her campaign website like, “I am constantly spending time with children, a skill set that I am sure is transferable to city hall.”

Baskin has received a lot of media attention since her candidacy announcement, and if she were to win, she would be the youngest mayor to ever be elected in Canada. She’d steal the record from a 19-year-old elected in Alberta back in the ’90s.

What these two candidates have in common is not what you would normally look for in a mayor:  youth. But in contrast to a crack-smoking leader who has definitely done his fair share of fibbing, maybe this is what the race needs.

Ford’s legacy has given everybody and their dog the ideal jumping off point for their platform: if he can be mayor, so can I. Here’s how I’ll do it better.

As for whether these young hopefuls have any chance of running Toronto, my cynical side doubts they can get the votes among numerous top political players and one very infamous man. They’ve got passion and drive, but little to no experience, and neither of them appear to be introducing anything in their platform that we haven’t heard before. Yet I do think they can make a splash, and maybe even a difference.

What better way to get the coveted “youth vote” than to be a young person yourself? This strategy may not work on a campus level, as voter apathy is always on the rise when it comes to RSU elections. But maybe seeing someone their age, or younger, could persuade a millennial to think about voting in the mayoral election.

They could consider what sort of effect they can have on city politics, and how their vote can potentially help send a message to Ford and others like him. The youth of the city have a certain amount of voting power, and maybe it’ll take the drive of one of their peers to remind them of it. Or maybe, knowing Ryerson’s apathetic nature, students still won’t care.

This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on March 12, 2014.

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