Mayoral candidate Jack Weenen received his first and only call from the media several days after the election. The City of Toronto clerk had just released the official results. They were not encouraging.
"I know why you're calling," he tells the reporter.
"Yeah, I'm Toronto's biggest loser."
That he is. Epically, historically, colossally so. And there's nobody happier about Jack Weenen's loserdom than Jack Weenen. "I'm already thinking about 2018," the 19-year-old candidate said at a campaign postmortem at a coffee shop along Spadina Avenue. "Eventually, I'd like to tap into the proletariat vote."
First, some reflection on the campaign that was – or wasn't.
Mr. Weenen emerged from the 10-month campaign in 65th place.
There were 65 candidates.
It takes an incredible lack of effort and a bad luck to run such a futile campaign – especially considering he registered early, Jan. 10. Over the ensuing 290 campaign days, he managed to attract, on average, 1.3 voters a week, for a grand total of 52 votes, or 0.005 per cent of votes cast in what was the largest turnout in city history. That figure placed him 495 votes behind a former pimp, 142 behind a dominatrix with a dungeon in her condo and a mere 53 behind a businessman who dressed up in a Zorro costume for campaign events.
The modern campaign requires a social-media presence. He had none. No Twitter persona, no campaign webpage and no online contact info available. "I'm not really up on the social-media thing," he said.
The traditional campaign requires a strong ground game. He also had none of that. He did no door-knocking and no leafleting.
All of these shortcomings added up to a historically abysmal campaign. At 52 votes, Mr. Weenen received the lowest support in the history of amalgamated Toronto. City staff said that a search for the previous mayoral candidate to receive so few votes would require a trip to the city archives.
When the fact of his historic placing is relayed to him, Mr. Weenen smiles and sips his cortado. "I was working and taking university classes. I didn't want to spend a lot of time on this."
The key to his ineffectiveness went beyond a lack of campaigning. He also decided to spend no money. He turned down all but $200 in campaign contributions, just enough to register his candidacy. "After that, it was a zero-in, zero-out campaign," he said. "I really wanted to stick to that and I did."
His campaign frugality served two purposes: to demonstrate his fiscal prudence and to make the campaign finances easy on his accountant, who also happens to be his mother.
So why did he run? "My girlfriend liked the idea of being a politician's wife," he said, before seeming to remember this is a very serious political interview. He was 18, fresh out of high school, and appalled with the state of the city's crumbling infrastructure, woeful transit system and divided political leadership. "I really felt amalgamation had been bad for the city," he said. "If we're stuck with this megacity we should look at creating a city-state, separate from the province."
Over the 10-month campaign, he held down jobs as a deckhand and mechanic on local tall ships and tugboats – ideal political training, he said. "When you're in office, you need a good idea of how to manage. Managing a ship is good experience. I've been in storms where I've been picked up by the scruff of my neck as I'm going over the side."
He plans to continue running every four years, plugging away at respectability, until he has a shot at getting elected. He admits that day may never come. "I just want to keep building this every four years," he said. "I was really encouraged by the campaign."