Anika Tabovaradan pulls a set of keys out of her pocket. They unlock the backstage area at Albert Campbell Collegiate Institute in Scarborough, where she’s been a theatre tech throughout her four years of high school. “It’s everything,” she says of her chosen extracurricular. It might also become her vocation; the 17-year-old Grade 12 student has been admitted to Ryerson University’s theatre production program for the fall.
Then again, she has also been accepted to the University of Toronto, McGill, Queen’s and the University of Ottawa – everywhere she applied – where she would study history instead. Ms. Tabovaradan enjoys reading about revolutions.
Her interest in civil defiance and behind-the-scenes comfort zone might not be surprising. In July, 2011, Ms. Tabovaradan made headlines after a tearful yet well-worded 2 a.m. deputation against library budget cuts in a marathon 22-hour executive committee meeting at Toronto City Hall.
“I’m not a director, I’m no president, I’m just a 14-year-old from Scarborough,” she said through sobs, after apologizing for her fear of public speaking.
The moment remains in collective memory as a snapshot of a distinct era – one where policy was at the heart of public discussion, before the city’s municipal affairs became fodder for late-night television monologues and YouTube animation parodies.
Ms. Tabovaradan won’t be 18 until December. That she won’t be able to vote in October’s election is a sore spot.
Now, as the smart and self-deprecating teen stands at the precipice of her life’s next chapter, it’s possible the rest of us do, too.
Do people still talk to you about that night at City Hall?
All the time. Family members bring it up sometimes, like, “Ha ha, that’s the girl who yelled at [Mayor Rob] Ford.” And I’m like, “I didn’t yell at him. I cried in front of him. Unintelligibly!”
Sounded pretty intelligible to me.
I don’t know. I wrote an essay recently about how crying is the worst and should be kept out of the public.
Have you always followed municipal politics?
Yeah. A lot of people have said, “When I was your age, I didn’t care.” But we do have a youth council. People should talk about them if they want youth perspective. But it’s not my scene. I like watching from afar. Just like backstage! And making snide commentary.
How do you feel about the past few years?
I feel like the universe is sending hurdles at Ford Nation to see how high they’ll jump, and apparently it’s pretty high. So, that’s scary. But the library hasn’t been under siege in a while, so that’s good. I feel like after that night, city council understood that we value our libraries. They’re always talking about making Toronto a world-class city. It’s the library that makes us a world-class city. It’s one of the biggest in North America.
But the scandals have been depressing. I have a friend who said, “Well, we get more tourism from the attention.” And I’m like, “No! It doesn’t work like that!” Depressing. Shame.
If you could vote, I’m guessing you wouldn’t be voting for Ford.
I’d vote for whoever isn’t Ford and is in the lead, I guess. Vote-splitting is such a problem in this city. I’m very excited about the ranked-ballot voting thing. Fingers crossed.
How are you feeling about the election issues?
They’re mentioning the subway. That’s something. But I’m waiting for everyone to present their policy [so I can] make a T-chart and compare it. It’s too early to compare policy right now.
Any predictions for how your neighbourhood’s leaning?
I found out yesterday that my ward  is the only part of Ford Nation outside of Etobicoke. So, apparently they liked him last time. But it’s hard to tell, because the only place I talk about politics is at school and the teachers tend to be more left-wing than most of the people in my ward. And my parents are obviously not on the Ford train. But a lot of the people in my ward don’t speak English, so I’m not sure what they’re thinking.
There’s a good chance you’ll leave the city before the election even happens.
Yeah. I’m going to keep track though, of course. Have to. And I won’t be able not to if Ford gets re-elected.