By Zachary Pothier
Mayoral candidate Morgan Baskin came to Ryerson on Wednesday to answer questions about municipal issues.
Q: How is it running for mayor at age 19?
A: I’ve never run for mayor at a different age, so I don’t have that to compare to (audience laughter). But definitely I juggle a very different collection of things than some of the other mayoral candidates. I don’t have someone at home cooking dinner, I don’t have children. All my friends are 19 or in that age bracket. Normally I would wake up every morning and go to university. Instead, I wake up every morning to a crap load of emails and go to debates and do stuff like this and read policy.
Q: I’ve noticed that there hasn’t been a lot of talk from the mainstream candidates about racism in terms of social justice issues. What are your thoughts are around these issues?
A: I was at a “Why Should I Care? event that’s held in pubs and I was at this event with me, David Soknacki and Ari Goldkind. Someone asked a question about diversity: What would you do about diversity in Toronto? And David answers to the effect of “we’ll get person for the job. We’ll be colour blind. My answer was, “We’ve be colour blind for 20 years.” We’ve been using that term for a really long time and when it comes to find the best person and that’s often defined by old white men, that’s what we get because that’s there understand of what’s good. It’s not that there aren’t older white men doing amazing work in the world, it’s that it’s not a representation of who lives in this city. I take my cubs to look at a picture of city council and it says “diversity is our strength” and I’m standing with an actually diverse group of young people looking at a picture of them (city council), how am I suppose to say diversity is our strength when we don’t represent it in our elected officials.
Personally I think it’s something we should talk about. I don’t think people talk about it because they find conversations about race and privilege and gender really uncomfortable because the people who are or need to have those conversations are privileged. I am privileged. I’m white, I’m middle class, I’m straight. That’s part of what allows me to be here today and I can’t say that’s not true. We need to seek out young people, people of colour, people across the disability spectrum because when we say “diversity is our strength” I believe that is true and we need to represent it.
Q: On the subject of racism, I’d like to talk about carding. This policy disproportionately targets young people of colour. As mayor, what would you do, if anything to stop this practice?
A: The power, mayoralty, is not that great. It is something I’m extremely uncomfortable about. I’ve said before that carding is a racist practice. It was not meant to be that way but the way it was implemented, it’s incredibly racist. We have the documents to prove it and it doesn’t make any sense. It has not led to better policing. There’s no definable way it’s led to better policing or had better prosecution rates or anything like that. It’s mostly just led to the persecution of young black men. I’m completely against it, but I have to be honest that the police board has the most power there and while the while the mayor is one voice in the board I have to honest about the limits of that power.
Q: How do you plan to get students (young people) to vote?
A: Part of it is stuff like this, but a lot of it is canvassing, I’ve been canvassing on university campuses handing out papers with my face on it to as many students as possible. For me it’s about running an authentic campaign. It’s not magic but I believe in the power of authenticity – it’s how Rob Ford got elected. Young people are super aware when someone is authentic
Q: Are youth and students apathetic in your view and if so, how do we engage them?
A: I don’t think young people are apathetic. Except for voting things like signing a petition or going to a protest, social media campaigns and that sort of stuff, we engage at the exact same level. We don’t engage in electoral politics, which is a very different thing. I think young people care about issues. I’ve never heard if you ask a young person “What’s your view on transit?” and not have an opinion. We done a terrible job of connecting the issues young people care about to electoral politics.
A lot of it is advocating voting, making voting fun, and making politics fun. I find politics fun and you are in this room because you find politics fun. Amongst young people politics has a terrible reputation. We tell people “You have to vote! Please vote! It’s your civic duty!” The last time I saw a young person do something because it was there duty… I don’t think that’s ever happened.
Q: Why do young people have this disconnect from electoral politics?
A: Because it is boring! Or at least the perception of it is that it’s boring. We haven’t made the direct connection to the effect that politics can have on our life to young people. That’s our failure as a society and as an electoral system.
You have to put politics in the spaces where young people are and you have to have some of that politics come from young people.
Q: How much of your decision to run for mayor was based on upsetting the normal trend of politics by running for mayor, rather than for council or school board?
A: When I did it, none at all. I didn’t do it consciously. I ran for mayor because that’s what I felt passionate about. Things like youth unemployment that need to be talked about at a city wide level. I’d rather lose running for mayor feeling really passionate about it rather than win and be a terrible school trustee.
Q: You mentioned youth unemployment earlier, what you do, given the limited power you have as mayor, to try fix this problem?
A: Part of it is working with organizations that already do work on it. Civic Action released a huge report on youth unemployment. An action plan, actually. A lot of it comes from working with those organizations who are doing great work and we need to support them to allow them to be bigger and better. I also think that the biggest thing is focusing on helping young people help themselves when it comes to supporting entrepreneurship programs that are amazing in terms of providing mentorship and resources to help our young peoples’ businesses. A lot of it comes from incentivizing on the job training. That peaked in 1997 and people getting jobs straight out of university has been declining ever since. Those are my three biggest things on that.
Q: What’s your policy on transit?
A: My policy on transit is that let’s go with what’s already been planned, which it seems no one else seems to agree with which is super weird since it’s already planned! We’re doing environmental assessments on the downtown relief line, we’re building a subway to York University. We’re doing things and we’re in the beginning stages of lots of things that we’ve cancelled many times. That’s’ the biggest thing is going Metrolinx and the TTC’s plans and finding the money and the will to get that done.
I’m also hugely, hugely support the TTC’s purposed set of recommendations for improving service for the next two years instead of the next ten which is the time it takes to build any sort of rail. This includes, time based fares, more streetcar and bus services where possible and all of which for 400 million dollars in capital and another 70 in annual investment. We have to remember that the little things matter in transit.
Q: What is your public housing policy?
A: TCHC needs more money and we need to agree we need higher taxes, but that’s another issue. The repairs backlog is incredibly… inhumane, is almost the word for that. If we’re providing houses that are subpar that’s unacceptable. We also need to build more public housing, the waiting list is long and a lot of that is not proving connections to leave public housing. And I don’t mean that they need to leave but rather not having the support they need to move on from that. To all this we need more money and for that we need different taxes.
Q: Do you support a living wage?
A: Yes but the municipal power there is very, very limited. If you cant live off the wage of your full time job, there’s a problem. But we need to be honest that there is not a lot of power municipally beyond advocacy.
Q: What should be done about arts and culture in Toronto?
A: First, we need to give it the reverence it deserves. We are a big arts city. We have one of the biggest theatre cultures. The arts are an economic driver in Toronto. There needs to be some investments in programs because they are not supporting working artists in off times.
Q: What is leadership all about? What are the attributes of a good leader?
A: Good leaders are bottom up. I’ve worked in scouting for 11 at this point and most the time it’s been in leadership positions and it’s about convincing everyone to be on the same page and move on as one group. It’s about leading people together and moving other people’s ideas further. A good leader is a team builder. In this case, it’s the idea that 43 people can move forward together. It’s about consensus building. If you can’t do that, that’s a problem and that’s what we’ve seen [over the past four years.]
Q: We saw electronic dance music (EDM) become an issue this past summer with some councillors wanting to ban those events on city property. If elected mayor, what would you do if this issue comes up again?
A: For me if it happening on city run facilities we can insure there are things to deal with [it]. Like paramedics on site, that there is the proper security. If it’s on city property we can have emergency services to deal with emergences. If it’s happening not on city property, then we can’t ensure that and that’s really problematic. I also think that we should never paint a picture of a whole people as if they are one person – painting people who listen to EDM music as all doing drugs. When we’re having these conversations at council we need to make sure that we’re not lumping people into one group. People can rent city property if they want and if you don’t want to have it on city property, you don’t have to but if it’s on city property we can make sure that we have emergency services to deal with emergencies. Imagine what would have happened at Veld if there weren’t [emergency services] and how much worse it could have been.
Q: With regards to our tree canopy, it was decimated in the recent ice storm. Other candidates have talked about planting trees to replenish what was lost. What’s your view on this?
A: We need to plant more trees. Our tree canopy does amazing work for us. It’s incredibly undervalued. Our urban forest is amazing it’s one of the biggest in the world and it does amazing things for our city in terms of heating and cooling costs and keeping our air clean. It’s important and we need to replant all of it up, at the very least, pre-ice storm levels and at best, more than that.