One of the few good things to come out of the whole Rob Ford mess is the news that Karen Stintz might run for mayor. Ms. Stintz is a fiscal conservative who could carry out the sensible parts of the Ford agenda – tighter budgeting, a more business-like city government, better customer service – without the sideshows that have derailed his mayoralty. She is a team builder who could bridge the divisions that tie city council in knots. She is smart, energetic and well spoken.
Those qualities position her well to fend off a return to power of the city's left. Olivia Chow, the Toronto MP and widow of Jack Layton, has signalled she is considering a run for mayor. She might get a crack at it as early as next year if Mr. Ford loses the appeal of his ouster and city council holds a by-election. Even if he wins the appeal and stays in office, he is such damaged goods that Ms. Chow would stand a good chance of knocking him out in the next scheduled election on Oct. 27, 2014. Current polls, for what they are worth, show her beating him handily.
That would continue what has become an unhealthy oscillation in city politics between left and right. The sequence since 1994 has been Barbara Hall (before amalgamation), Mel Lastman, David Miller and Rob Ford. Replacing a populist right-winger such as Mr. Ford with an NDP stalwart such as Ms. Chow would subject the city to a wild swing in direction.
Far better to choose someone who would stay the course but keep a firmer hand on the helm. Ms. Stintz fits the bill. She was often a critic of David Miller when he was in office, becoming a leader of the Responsible Government Group, an unofficial opposition caucus. After the 2010 election, she joined the Ford team as chair of the Toronto Transit Commission and still supports his bid to control spending. When a group of councillors ganged together to block some of the Ford cuts to the 2012 budget, she stood to remind them that "we didn't get sent here to make easy choices."
But she has also been ready to stand up to Mr. Ford when it is called for. She told the mayor his insistence on tearing up the Transit City plan in favour of a hugely expensive, mostly underground LRT line on Eglinton made no sense – and she was right.
She led the subsequent council revolt that reinstated the LRT network and voted down Mr. Ford's ill-conceived, unfunded Sheppard subway extension. She opposed the Ford administration's vindictive decision to fire TTC chief general manager Gary Webster. Her OneCity plan to expand the transit network in the coming decades went nowhere on council, but showed a boldness that would serve her well as mayor.
Even Adam Vaughan, a left-leaning downtown councillor who is considering a run for mayor himself, says that "my respect for her has grown." He says she has matured in the current term, and indeed Ms. Stintz seems more poised and confident with passing time. She has been a councillor for Ward 16 Eglinton-Lawrence since 2003.
Will she run? She said on Wednesday that without knowing the outcome of Mr. Ford's appeal, "it's too soon to say." But she is considering it seriously.
Ms. Stintz used to say that she would never run against Mr. Ford for mayor.
Now that he faces being ousted from office, the situation has changed. It would be a shame if only a left-leaning candidate, or candidates, opposed him in the next election, whether it comes in 2013 or 2014. The city needs better options than the return of Rob Ford or the return of the left.