It was clear from the beginning that Morgan Baskin’s campaign to become Toronto’s next mayor was going to be different. One of her first campaign meetings was held in a small church, with about 20 people in attendance. The majority were students from the University of Toronto or York University.
Baskin’s campaign was built on cooperation and honesty. During an interview she did with Global TV, she said that “unlike a lot of adults, I’m willing to say when I’m wrong, I’m willing to admit, ‘Ok, I don’t know how to do this. Let’s ask someone who knows.’ And not pretend I know it all.”
Baskin describes herself as a “political version of a cat video”—someone who is cute, quirky, and would speak her mind, regardless of the consequences . According to her, this is one of the reasons her style of politics resonated with people. And it did resonate: Of the 65 candidates who ran for mayor, Baskin came eighth.
“It was (Baskin’s) vision, but it was everyone’s input,” said Arezoo Najibzabeh, a University of Ottawa student and a campaign volunteer for Morgan. “We sat around in a circle in chairs and we talked about ourselves and what we wanted in this campaign.”
Najibzabeh said that it was nice to be part of the conversation instead of being told what to believe.
At the age of 18, Baskin decided to run for mayor of Toronto. She says she can’t recall why she made the decision; just that she was having a passionate conversation with some friends and complaining when someone said, ‘why don’t you put your money where your mouth is? You could do it.’ Baskin took the suggestion to heart and spent a year and a half researching what it would mean to run in a municipal election.
Despite all of this preparation, Baskin insists she had no idea what she was getting herself into.
“I didn’t think anyone was going to pay attention,” she said.
“I had nothing. I had a website I made myself that I hadn’t even proof read when I signed up. It was a disaster. My first professional email to my account said ‘I went through your website and corrected the spelling and grammar. Here are the corrections.’”
Sporting her signature red lipstick and thick-rimmed glasses, Morgan ran from one event to another, often not pausing to rest between interviews. Her days were packed with candidate debates, and neighbourhood round tables, and media requests. Her mother, Beth Baskin, acted as her chauffeur and offered moral support when her daughter needed it.
“I think it’s incredible and it will shape whatever she does,” Baskin’s mother said. “I think she also learned a bit of the meanness of human beings, Internet trolling that I wish she hadn’t.
“That’s reality and unfortunately you can’t avoid the assholes, even if you wish too.”
Beth Baskin said that her daughter inspired people of all ages to get involved in politics. During a campaign party the night of the election a man showed up when her daughter was out and left his card with the family.
“He said she had made the election exciting for him … The fact that, even folks who voted, or even those who didn’t, there were countless emails saying that you inspired me to vote.”
Baskin exudes confidence wherever she goes. As the oldest of all the Baskin children, she often took a leadership role in the family and at church.
Brian Bukowski, a family friend who has known Baskin since she was a baby, said that he was often surprised at the type of conversations he would have with her, especially about travel.
“I wasn’t very much into hanging out with kids,” he said. “But, I just remember having a conversation with her and thinking, wow, this is a young person having an interesting and articulate conversation.”
Even at age three, Baskin was politically involved. In 1997, her parents took her on an excursion to Queen’s Park to encourage the government to open up more of Ontario Parks. Beth explained that if they were involved in the community, her daughter was there, standing beside them.
Now 19, Baskin reflects on her decision and says she wouldn’t recommend running for mayor unless you really wanted to. Exhausted and tired after a strenuous campaign year, Baskin is trying to get back to her real life. Right now she is working at a chocolate shop, volunteering for Scouts Canada, and is getting ready to go to Quest University in the fall—or as she puts it, “just trying to be 19.