The world is watching Toronto’s coming mayoral race, largely thanks to Mayor Rob Ford’s international renown for admitting he used illicit drugs while in office.
Since Jan. 2, 72 people have registered to run for mayor and, as of now, 69 of them will be on the ballot come Oct. 27 – which is significantly more than the 40, 38 and 44 people who ran for the position in each of the past three municipal elections, respectively.
While Torontonians are familiar with the election’s front-runners, this year’s mayoral campaign has seen everyone from a famous porn star to a squirrel attempt to become the city’s next chief magistrate. But why do these candidates, who lack the necessary resources, political experience and name recognition, dedicate most of their year campaigning for a position that they are unlikely to win? We caught up with three candidates who best personify three different groups of fringe candidates. Their reasons for running might just make you think twice about who you should be casting your vote for on election day.
The Young Up-and-Comer
Morgan Baskin was 16 years old when she first toyed with the idea of running for mayor. Tired of seeing how young Torontonians were being left out of the municipal discussion, she wanted to find a way to engage her fellow youth.
So two years later, she decided to do something about it.
“I ran [for mayor] because I was frustrated with the lack of attention that was being paid to the values and to the needs of young people,” said Ms. Baskin, an avid social activist who graduated from high school last spring. “We have to live with the decisions that are being made the longest and if we are borrowing money we have to pay for those decisions.”
The youngest candidate vying to be the city’s next chief magistrate – she turned 19 in June – Ms. Baskin would like to see an increased amount of public education on city-wide issues.
“I think it’s incredibly important to make politics easy to pay attention to,” she said. “You have to understand how to break it [the information] down, and I don’t mean distilling it and getting rid of important information, but how to help people understand what the real impact is.”
Regardless of election results on Oct. 27, Ms. Baskin has said that the overwhelming support she has received, both from the public and other candidates, has her looking forward to a future career in politics. So will she run for office in the 2018 municipal election?
“Almost certainly,” she said. “I have no idea what the city and I are going to look like then, but I really do believe that you should go where you feel most passionate.”
Dave McKay doesn’t expect to become the city’s next mayor. In fact, if you were to ask him whom to support on Oct. 27, the 50-year-old IT consultant – who’s running for the position as his alter ego, Sketchy the Clown – would urge you to not cast your vote for him.
“I’m not a serious candidate,” he said. “I’m looking to bring a little education to [city politics] and the only way I know how to do that is to add a little humour.”
A self-described political junkie, Mr. McKay has been interested in all levels of politics since he was a teenager and is frustrated by the lack of general interest and knowledge of Canada’s political landscape – especially on the municipal level.
“I was upset that people [would say they] didn’t like David Miller, and they didn’t even look into why they didn’t like him,” he said. “They weren’t following municipal politics; they were just taking whatever headlines are throwing at him.”
Running what he describes as an educational campaign, Mr. McKay does not want the success of his mayoral bid to be measured by how many votes he receives, but by how many Torontonians he is able to engage. His hope is that through his social media presence, educational YouTube videos and various appearances that Sketchy can provide a way for people to learn about municipal politics and what their city and local government does for them.
“If I get people to vote who wouldn’t normally vote or people who are going to vote to at least look into some issues … [or] look more into what the city does, then that’s a victory to me.
“I don’t actually want the job; it doesn’t fit my lifestyle.”
Most people will remember the media circus that followed Mr. Ford as he registered to run for re-election with the city clerk on Jan. 2 (the first possible day that candidates could register). What they don’t know is that Diana Maxted was there minutes before him and, according to her, was the first person to register for the coming election.
After all, 2014 will mark the third time that the former receptionist has run to become the city’s mayor – she previously ran in 2000 and 2006 (when she received a little more than 1,300 votes) – and she didn’t want to be late.
For Ms. Maxted, running for office is about building a stronger sense of community, which is why most of her campaigning involves meeting people in her neighbourhood and at festivals and events around the city.
“People are anti-social. If you smile at somebody [on the street] they give you the oddest look,” said Ms. Maxted, who would only say she is more than 65 years old. “I want to bring Toronto back to where it was when I was back growing up in the 1950s and 60s. The environment, the vibes don’t seem to be what they used to be.”
Having lived in all six of the City of Toronto’s former municipalities, Ms. Maxted says that she would advise any future candidates who are running for mayor to carefully research their proposed changes and stick to a plan that would better the larger community – something that, win or lose, she is hoping to achieve.
“Whatever position I come up in, even if I’m at the bottom of the polls, it doesn’t matter, at least I gave it a good shot to make changes out there,” she said. “I don’t have to be the mayor of Toronto.”