renee jagdeo

This 19-year-old is running to be the youngest city councillor in Toronto's history

Renee Jagdeo is a 19-year-old, second-year university student majoring in urban planning and human geography at U of T, and she is also running to be the youngest city councillor in the history of Toronto.

Jagdeo told blogTO she was inspired to run in the Ward 22 (Scarborough-Agincourt) byelection, brought on by former councillor Jim Karygiannis' removal from office, thanks to the pandemic and the way it has forced her to reevaluate how our systems operate and who they serve. 

"I decided to run because I think as a youth there are a lot of concerns that are overlooked, and I see a great amount of parallels in the issues that Scarborough-Agincourt hopes to resolve," she said. 

"I believe I'd be able to serve Ward 22 as a councillor who strives to inject new ideas and advocate for existing concerns — and so why not try?"

Jagdeo's platform has six main categories: green and recreational space, housing, improving public transit, COVID response, community safety, and economic development

She supports plans for a Sheppard Corridor subway extension, free TTC service for the city's essential workers, protecting renters from eviction throughout COVID-19, prioritizing new affordable housing, and more. 

The main thing she said she hopes to accomplish, though, or at least leave as her legacy from this campaign, is the prioritization of improved circulation and green space.

"In my first year at U of T, through the Munk One Program, my friends and I developed a solution to address the deficit of green space in the city and used our transit system as a host space," she explained.

"With the TTC, the city has an incredible opportunity to make green spaces accessible, especially to commuters who spend a large portion of their day without exposure to nature."

Overall, she said she aims to better the lives of Scarborough-Agincourt residents by helping to improve accessibility to different urban spaces, resources, and social programs. 

"Underserved communities like Ward 22 experience a lack of important community infrastructure and programs which makes simple things like efficient transit or green spaces seem like a luxury. Circulation and access to green spaces should not be a luxury — or limited to the downtown core," she said.

Jagdeo also says her studies in urban planning and human geography have prepared her for this position, and many of her policy ideas come from what she's learned in the program. 

Beyond her education, she said she is also the best person for the job because of her passion, open-mindedness, and commitment to the success of Scarborough, as well as that fact that she has no prior political ties or affiliations — something she said makes her well equipped to honestly advocate on behalf of the community and prioritize their successes.

But running for city council at such a young age isn't without its challenges, and Jagdeo said even close friends and family responded with confusion when she initially told them about her plan to run.

"I think it's funny that there is some expectation as to what our city councillors look like, how old they are, or what they do. I would want our city council to be representative our city, which would naturally include young people like me," said Jagdeo.

The potential to be the youngest person to ever sit on Toronto's city council, and what that would mean as a young woman of colour, is part of what motivates her, and Jagdeo said the city could certainly use the representation.

"It would be an incredible feeling to be the youngest city councillor, not only as a personal milestone, but also for the purpose of representation," she said. 

"I would like to see more people my age involving themselves directly in politics and have their voices respected on an established platform like city council. Being the youngest city councillor would hopefully encourage other young people, young women, and young people of colour to take a chance on themselves and join me in accomplishing representation."

But the competition is stiff, with 26 other candidates running for the same position —  all of whom are older and more experienced.

Still, Jagdeo is doing everything she can to get her message across until election day. 

The Ward 22 byelection is set to take place on Jan. 15, 2021, and eligible residents can also register to vote by mail until 4 p.m. on Jan. 4.

"I am a young woman of colour living in Toronto, and with these defining factors, I experience the city in a way that not many people do," said Jagdeo. 

"I believe my lived experience as a student, a commuter, a worker, and sometimes even a tourist, gives me a perspective of the city that I would love to represent Ward 22 with in city council. I think there is a need for representation, and diversity of thought, and perspective in municipal politics, and if people agree with this sentiment then I would encourage them to reach out to me and vote," she continued.

"I want to help Scarborough-Agincourt reclaim their right to influence direct change in the community, and am committed to ensuring the Ward serves their residents beyond being a place to live."

Lead photo by

Renee Jagdeo

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