A troop of inquisitive Girl Guides lines up for autographs in front of a local celebrity, an 18-year-old Guide running for mayor.
“I was sick of waiting for grown-ups to fix things for me,” Morgan Baskin said.
Candidate Baskin sat in the basement of the Cosburn United Church in front of the Guides, speaking about women in leadership. The seven-to-12-year-olds grilled her on Rob Ford and her position on the Scarborough Subway.
Toronto’s 2014 mayoral race includes a clown and a dominatrix as candidates, as well as Rob Ford, Olivia Chow and Baskin, who says she resents the widely held belief that age equals experience.
“I’m not running for mayor because I’m arrogant or because I want to skip steps in life,” Baskin said. “If I don’t win, in the traditional sense of the word, I’ve messed up.”
Baskin’s candidacy began when, as a Girl Guide, she lamented the under-representation of women on Toronto city council; she pointed out the fact that only two women have served as mayor of Toronto.
“We often wait for someone to take us seriously,” Baskin said. “We wait for someone else to tell us that we’re good enough, that it’s time for us to step up to the plate. I think that’s sad.”
Clair McWatt agreed. She’s a former chair of Toronto’s Youth Cabinet and current advocate for the organization Women in Toronto Politics. She pointed out that there’s too much talk and not enough walk in support of young candidates.
“When we look at young candidates, we tend to fetishize it,” McWatt said. “It’s about more than just having women candidates in the fray. It’s about looking at how those candidates are represented along media boundaries.”
McWatt said that she’s critical of the way the media portray Olivia Chow.
“That’s where that inherent sexism really plays out,” she said.
Mike Bleskie is vice-president of Cambrian College’s student union and current candidate for Sudbury’s city council. At 24, he said he confronts ageism in a practical way.
“It’s a matter of presenting yourself in professional fashion, showing that you have the exact same abilities as someone who’s 46 years old,” Bleskie said.
Sometimes, however, the most difficult group of voters to win over is right in his midst.
“Apathy (in) our age group is at an all time high,” he said.
Baskin recognized that problem too, but she said she’s more focused on the issues at hand.
“I’m not interested in being just another politician,” Baskin said. “I’m interested in a happy city.”