Meet the longshots: 22-year-old Jack Weenen finished last in 2014 mayoral race, but he’s running again

 thestar.com  7/13/2018 9:43:31 PM 

During the 2018 campaign and up until the Oct. 22 vote, the Star will speak to longshot mayoral candidates running against incumbent John Tory. This is the first in a series.

In 2014, then 19-year-old Jack Weenen finished last in the mayoral race, beat by all 64 other candidates.

Jack Weenen, 22, is running to be mayor of the city.
Jack Weenen, 22, is running to be mayor of the city.  (Provided)

He vowed to run again.

Now 22, Weenen, who is currently living in France and is registered to attend Glendon College to study history in the fall, paid the now $200 nomination fee to get back on the ballot.

Below is a condensed-for-length interview with Weenen on why.

You hinted at the end of the last election that you would be back. So, what made you want to sign up again?

Oh, I’m going to keep running every year until I’m in.

And what’s really motivating that?

There’s a lot of things. I’m not quite sure what I want to do and I thought maybe politics was a good calling.

You mentioned something (in a 2014 Globe & Mail article) about your girlfriend last time?

Um, that article was a long time ago. I could pull it up. That’s over. (Laughs.)

You said she thought it would be great to be a political wife.

Oh, I remember that. I remember that comment. That was a joke and it ended up being the one thing that he definitely ended up publishing.

Any idea what issues you think are most important to tackle if you were running the city?

Well, you know, definitely housing and transportation are the two biggest issues in the city. I think Toronto’s got a really great transport system that still, realistically, has a long way to go … And even though we’re a grid, it doesn’t work for everyone, especially with the city amalgamated the way it is . . . it’s the horseshoe now. We’ve definitely got to expand it, get it bigger, get more stations in. Which brings it to the housing — I mean, if we keep building condos the way we do, we definitely need social housing within the condo buildings. And I think, more importantly, we need multi-unit, family units in these condo buildings. Because a lot of them that I’ve seen, that my friends are in now, they’re mostly bachelors. And I haven’t actually seen any three-bedroom, four-bedroom condos with a subway stop and a school at the bottom of the condo. And I think that that’s really something that we should be making mandatory if they want to keep putting them up the way they are.

So, in 2014 you placed behind all of the 64 other candidates, including the guy who was running with a duck puppet. Any theory on why you did so badly?

Well, my main campaign, my whole platform really, is based on what I think is the reason for that and it’s something that I’m going to keep doing this year. And it’s zero in, zero out: No money spent and no advertising. And I will respond gladly to any emails, any phone calls, any requests like you sent me today to have an interview, but getting money out of politics, I think, is when democracy ceases to exist … Campaigns, whether it be a municipal, provincial or federal matter, they should be publicly funded. I don’t think that privately-funded campaigns are in line with what we consider democracy. It’s kind of wrong.

You did that last time, where you were intentionally not spending at all, not doing the traditional campaigning of lawn signs and radio advertisements and any of that. You ended up with 52 votes. When you saw the tally, how did you feel?

Pretty great. I got 52 votes. I mean, that means I have 52 real friends.

Yeah, at least, I guess.

Yeah, at least. Either that or the few people I ran into on the street were very convinced.

And who did you get to nominate you this time?

I had an overwhelming number of people who, when I announced that I was doing it again, they all came over and I got my 25 signatures in a few hours — mostly friends, family, friends of friends, neighbours.

Why the mayor’s race? Obviously there’s been a surge of younger voices running for all levels of politics, but the mayor’s race is pretty tough compared to, say, running in one of the wards.

I have never expected to win. And I don’t expect to win this year. And I think if I was running for councillor I would probably put in a lot more effort because it would be my community, something that I’m already more involved in … I mean, let’s face it, I’m 22. I don’t have the knowledge, wisdom, experience or know-how to run a city.

So, why run then?

Because, I can.

I mean, is it for fun? Is it because you said you would? Is it because you get to talk about stuff you care about?

There’s countless reasons to run. You know, I think putting out my whole idea of no money and no money out campaign is something that I like talking about, that I like putting out there. I’ve always thought that politics was the one job you could have without having a high school education, so at the time when I wasn’t yet done high school it made perfect sense. And then this year it was just a natural thing to do, is to run again.

What do you say to people who think this is a stunt or it’s just a joke?

I prove them wrong and get 52 votes.

Jennifer Pagliaro is a Toronto-based reporter covering city politics. Follow her on Twitter: @jpags

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