After 10 months of biding her time, it only took a moment for Karen Stintz to make up her mind.
For months the TTC chair had been telling members of Mayor Rob Ford’s administration that there were problems with their transit plan. But when she was outvoted last week by other Ford loyalists on the TTC on an information request for the Eglinton Crosstown line, she decided to act.
“It was at that moment,” Ms. Stintz said. “I thought if the TTC wasn’t even able to write a report to talk about the issues, then we weren’t ever going to get to a point where we could resolve them.”
Even before she got back to her office, other councillors were approaching her. By Thursday, Ms. Stintz was circulating her petition to councillors and in five hours had the 24 signatures she needed to call a special meeting.
With her actions, Ms. Stintz became the unlikely leader of a very public showdown with Mr. Ford over his campaign pledge to deliver subways – the latest example used by his critics to show the mayor is losing his influence on council.
“It was just a vote,” said Ms. Stintz, the morning after Wednesday’s unprecedented transit debate at city hall. She said it’s time to move on.
“Rob Ford is still the mayor.” And for the record, Ms. Stintz said, “I would never run against Rob.”
But after the drama of Wednesday’s council meeting, it is hard to see how it will be business as usual at city hall.
Ms. Stintz, who as TTC chair plays a key role in the mayor’s team, became the subject of personal attacks for her actions, some delivered by her fellow councillors who accused her of plotting a “coup” and called on her to resign her post.
Councillor Doug Ford, the mayor’s closest adviser, has made no secret of his frustration with the TTC and the members of council who voted Wednesday against the mayor’s deal with the province to devote $8.4-billion in transit funding to bury the entire length of the Crosstown line. “She’s lost the confidence of the mayor and the administration,” Councillor Ford said after Ms. Stintz made her opposition public.
After Wednesday’s vote, Rob Ford told a newspaper columnist Ms. Stintz had stabbed him in the back.
Ms. Stintz argues it didn’t have to be that way. Last March, the mayor signed a deal with the Premier, cancelling light rail lines on Sheppard and Finch and in return got provincial agreement to bury the entire Crosstown. He also agreed to look for private funds to extend the Sheppard subway.
Almost from the beginning, Ms. Stintz says, she asked where the money for the subway would come from and questioned when the plan would get council support. “I thought I was fairly clear communicating we have a problem here. It wasn’t a problem that they wanted to accept or acknowledge,” she said.
Throughout the summer and fall, discussions continued. In a sit down with Councillor Ford in mid-January she outlined a plan to run the Crosstown at street level east of the Don River. The $2-billion that saved could go to light rail on Finch and extending Sheppard. She thought she had a deal.
But as word leaked out about the compromise, the mayor made it clear first in a public statement, then face to face, that he was not on board. “I thought I had a deal with Doug and I was wrong,” Ms. Stintz said. “The mayor reminded me to his credit that Doug is not the mayor.”
One more attempt at compromise was made the day before the transit debate, spearheaded by Councillor Michael Thompson, also a member of the mayor’s inner circle. Over several hours Tuesday Mr. Thompson met with the mayor, his chief of staff, Ms. Stintz, and councillors Ana Bailao, Cesar Palacio and Peter Milczyn.
“I saw what was happening,” Mr. Thompson said. “There was much conversation about the mayor being unwilling to work with others. The mayor to his credit was extremely co-operative and agreed to sit down.”
By 6 p.m., as council continued its regular session, Mr. Thompson thought he had an agreement on his proposal to defer the transit question for 30 days to an expert panel. That deal did not happen.
After so many years of study, Ms. Stintz said there was no need to research the Crosstown line any further. In response, she split her proposal in two, adding an expert panel, as well, to study the possibility of the Sheppard subway extension. “There was a sense that maybe this was a way forward from my perspective,” she said.
The mayor responded to defeat by calling the entire meeting “irrelevant.”
“I think that when the dust settles there will be some sober second thought on the whole matter,” said Ms. Stintz, who added that she has no intention of giving up her TTC post. “It’s a job I enjoy doing,” she said.