While many recent high-school grads are ready for fun in the sun, Morgan Baskin will spend the summer drumming up support for her mayoral campaign. The 19-year-old from Corktown is the youngest candidate currently seeking our city’s top office. Just before WorldPride, she told us about her recent Champagne birthday, internet trolls, and how late-night-TV jokesters already have her on their radars.
First things first—a belated happy birthday to you. You just turned 19.
I did. Thanks.
And it was on June 19th. Are you familiar with the concept of a Champagne birthday?
I am. There was some Champagne involved, but it wasn’t the typical 19th birthday. Most of my friends aren’t legal yet.
So no drunken stupors?
Definitely not. It’s important for a public figure to know how to handle their alcohol.
You are also a newly minted graduate. What was it like balancing schooling with campaigning?
I’m getting very good at time management. Sometimes things fall off your plate. Unfortunately, those things are often friends and family, but I’m doing a lot better not having school. And I don’t spend six hours on Netflix anymore.
What has surprised you the most about this experience so far?
I think the contact I’ve had with young people from around the world—the States, Mexico, Brazil, Scotland. I’ve gotten messages saying, “You make me feel like I can run. Not someday—whenever I want to.” That’s why I’m doing all of this.
Are you mostly communicating with these people on Twitter?
Twitter and Tumblr. Tumblr has been an amazing resource. I think it’s a place where teenagers feel like it’s their people and not a place where there are many…
Oldsters. It’s okay—you can say it.
No, no. I just mean a place that feels like it’s ours and where teenagers feel important.
You’ve also had some experience with negativity on the internet. [Baskin posted to her Tumblr account a bunch of the inappropriate sexual advances she has received online.]
Yes, definitely. It happens to everyone and, especially being a woman on social media, it can be tough. But I think the positive outweighs the negative. For your own mental health, you can’t take it personally. I called out those people because I wanted to say that this happens and it’s not okay. I definitely got a lot of flack, including from other candidates.
Both Olivia Chow and Karen Stintz were less than supportive. They basically said, don’t feed the trolls. [Local feminist] Steph Guthrie has an amazing TED talk on this topic where she says that, basically, if you ignore the trolls, then you’re telling them it’s okay. I was also inspired by so many brave women telling their stories with the #yesallwomen campaign and I just thought, yes, me too.
Rob Ford famously explained his transit plan as “subways, subways, subways.” What’s yours?
We need to listen to the experts, as in the people who run the TTC and Metrolinx. And we need to get the most bang for our buck.
You don’t support a specific plan, then?
No—I’m not an expert. I don’t have a degree in city planning. I shouldn’t be the person sitting there drawing a map. That’s ridiculous. My job is to represent the people and figure out where to find the money.
Any ideas for transit funding?
A lot of the funding strategies being talked about now—selling bonds, selling assets—involve downloading debt onto my generation. I would love to look at other methods, including taxes and tolls.
A new poll showed that Ford currently has 27 per cent support. Does that shock you?
I was even more surprised by the number of young people who said they would vote for him. But, you know, Rob Ford said one thing over and over again. He told people who felt like they didn’t matter that they mattered—that is powerful.
Okay, let’s say that Jimmy Kimmel is talking about Morgan Baskin.
Well, he did mention me. Conan also mentioned me in his opening monologue.
What did he say?
He said there’s an 18-year-old candidate. And then he made a joke that my campaign slogan is, “I don’t do crack.” Which, I mean, I don’t, but that’s not my campaign slogan.
You are working with a pretty small budget compared to some of the other candidates. Is anyone on your payroll?
No, my team is strictly volunteers. I’m not a candidate who’s going to be able to raise $3 million. The number of people who live in this city who can raise that kind of money is very small—most of them are running for mayor!
Ha! Good one. Pride festivities are wrapping up this weekend. Are you participating?
I have my tutu in my bag. I’ll be at the Trans March today. My dad—well, one of my dads, S. Bear Bergman—is emceeing the post-march rally at Yonge/Dundas Square, so that’s exciting. And then I’m almost certainly marching with the TDSB in the Pride Parade on Sunday. I’ll have a pretty full Pride weekend. When you have queer parents, pride is a bit of a circus.
Can you explain your family set-up?
It is so much less interesting than it sounds. When I was born, my parents were house-sharing with a man who lived with us and parented me until I was five. When he moved out, it was like having divorced parents, except there was no divorce—I spent a lot of time with him, we would go out for dinner. And then he got married, so there were two dads. I have two houses, two toothbrushes, two fridges to raid.
What do you make of Ford’s refusal to participate in Pride?
If you’re an elected official and you’re invited to a large event and you don’t have a conflict—and by that I mean a job-related conflict—you should be attending. This year is WorldPride; it’s a huge event, our mayor should be there.
Favourite fast food?
Favourite dance song?
“She’s So Perfect” by 5 Seconds of Summer.
Who’d play you in movie?
Salt or pepper?
Must-have grooming product?
Favourite board game?
Settlers of Catan.