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Toronto Councillors Colle and Augimeri begin race for TTC chair

Toronto City Councillor Maria Augimeri talks to the media in Toronto November 05, 2013.

Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

A race is shaping up over who will be the next chair of the Toronto Transit Commission when Councillor Karen Stintz gives up the job in the new year to concentrate on her run for mayor.

Two councillors on the transit commission – rookie Josh Colle and veteran Maria Augimeri – want the high-profile post and have begun working to gain the council support they will need to win a vote in February.

Ms. Stintz has declared her intention to run for mayor and is stepping down as TTC chair on Feb. 22, according to a short letter sent late Friday by the city clerk to the mayor and councillors.

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Ms. Stintz will keep her seat on the TTC board during the campaign, the letter states.

Her replacement as chair will be chosen at the city-council meeting in late February.

There are early signs the vote will be yet another battle between councillors who wanted to stick with a planned light rail line in Scarborough and those who voted earlier this year for a three-stop extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway and a 0.5-per-cent property tax levy to pay for it.

Ms. Stintz and Mayor Rob Ford pushed for the subway extension. Transit expansion – and how to finance it – is likely to be a key topic in next year's election.

Mr. Colle joined the TTC in March, 2012, as part of a shakeup of the transit body.

In October, he was one of 24 councillors to vote for replacing the aging Scarborough rapid transit line with a subway extension, rather than light rail. Ms. Stintz said Sunday he is her preferred candidate to take her place as TTC chair.

Mr. Colle said he wants to focus on service and reliability, rather than the expansion plans that have dominated this term's transit debates.

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"I think we need a bit of calm on the transit file," he said.

If re-elected, he said he would be interested in continuing in the post in the next term.

Ms. Augimeri voted against the Scarborough subway and supports a move by Councillor Josh Matlow to delay the levy for one year, until after the municipal vote.

"Toronto residents don't have the stomach to pay for the next 30 years on their taxes for three stops on a subway," she said Sunday.

In addition to the levy, the provincial and federal governments also have pledged funding.

Despite her opposition to the subway, Ms. Augimeri said that debate will not be before the commission next year.

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Instead, she said if she is appointed, she will act as a "caretaker" in the role and has no plans to remain in the job after next year's election.

The NDP councillor said she has not decided who she will back for mayor, noting New Democratic MP Oliva Chow, widely expected to enter the race, has yet to declare her intention.

She noted that the other declared candidate, former city councillor David Soknacki, played a key role in the development of Downsview Park in her ward.

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