Ned Taylor is eighteen years old, a recent high school graduate, a veteran political campaigner and (with a bow to Leonard Cohen) a beautiful loser. How does this all fit into his grand plan to become a politician? Very nicely, I’d say, and as someone who’s been following Ned’s progress since he was a sixteen-year-old political novice just beginning to volunteer on campaigns, I’d venture to predict that it’s one of the first chapters in a political success story!
Ned is an issues-driven politico, and when he jumped into the Saanich municipal election of September 23, 2017 as a candidate, he focused on issues rather than personality: housing affordability, reducing waste, fighting climate change, expanding car-free transportation. Ned even took the opportunity to get some animal related issues, and his own views on them, into the conversation.
Should Saanich deal with the deer overpopulation that causes car accidents and ruined gardens? Ned strongly opposes culling deer, one common suggestion. “We have to co-exist with wildlife,” he insists. “Culling them simply isn’t effective.” Instead, he proposes long-term population reduction such as sterilization. “Deer never wanted to be around humans, but they have now become comfortable in our environment.”
Ned also proposed some unique ideas to tackle the housing crisis in Saanich. One of these was to allow ‘garden suites,’ detached backyard rental suites. “They would provide more affordable housing for students at our universities, and even accommodate seniors looking to downsize,” he claims. Others include ‘tiny house communities’ and more student housing at Saanich’s university campuses.
Much greater than Ned’s position on these issues, however, is how he used the election as a learning curve for his future political goals. His campaign was shorter than most of the other candidates – a mere two months versus five months. His budget was also strikingly leaner, yet he translated that modest sum into lawn signs and enough pamphlets for a daily campaign of knocking on doors, the time-honoured way to run a successful political campaign. He also paid for Facebook boost payments and a robocall.
Ned’s youth also paid off in terms of his familiarity with social media. He was very active on Facebook, and was able to reach a large audience. He has since gained a presence on Twitter and Reddit and is planning to launch on other platforms which have significant numbers of followers.
“I was pretty sure I wouldn’t win,” Ned explains, “but I wanted to make a difference and do well. I knew I’d be running again in October 2018, and I wanted to be ready for that. I wanted to have an impact on this election, and make my issues and ideas heard. r. I had a full platform, available on my website, as testimony to my seriousness.” Ned Taylor was “that young kid running,” but he was also much more than that young kid.
Ned didn’t win the election. He placed fifth in a field of ten. But in terms of his political career, it was a victory, because it was a strong showing and an intense learning experience, a political apprenticeship that’s just beginning.
What’s his next step? Impressively, it’s a “gap year” that will be spent in Australia volunteering in the office of Shane Rattenbury, a Green Party Minister who holds the balance of power in a state government.. Ned has some distant connections with the Australian Green Party, a family he will live with in Canberra, and a cousin who is a Green Party city councillor in Sydney and whose campaign he will observe so that he can bring ideas back to Saanich. He’s also served a brief apprenticeship with Canadian Green Party leader Elizabeth May, spending a week at her office in Ottawa.
Ned’s political passion is currently directed at the municipal level. If he’s elected after two or three terms, he can see himself in provincial or federal politics. “But,” he says, “right now, I can’t keep my mind off Saanich!”
So let’s see. Ned is eighteen now, and by the time he’s in his mid-twenties, he should be a seasoned politician. He’s already a committed advocate, and an ethical young man willing to compromise on strategy but not fundamental principles. From the perspective of this animal activist, Ned Taylor’s political ambitions can only be seen as a bright light in the fight to give Canada’s environment, animals, and people, something better.