I often imagine what it was like behind the scenes back in the heady days of the fall of `10, just after Rob Ford’s surprise mayoral victory. Transitioning into power, drawing up their enemies candidates list for positions in the administration. The only absolute condition was a shared visceral antipathy toward the mayor-elect’s predecessor. Also, being yes men toadies a must.
“So, Stintzie wants to run the TTC. What do you think?”
“Ummm… Don’t know. Did she hate Miller as much as I did?”
“Nobody hated Miller as much as you, Robbie.”
“Yeah, you’re right. I fucking hated that guy. But you think she respects the taxpayers enough? Remember those voice lessons she paid for out of her office expenses?”
“As long as she votes with us to cut those expenses, we can let bygones be bygones. But I’ll tell you what. If she’s still thinking about ever running for mayor—”
“That’s the thing, Robbie. You won’t have to. The shit we’re going to do to the TTC. Cuts… cuts… cuts–”
“You know who else I fucking hate, Dougie? Jerry Webster. Can we so fire that guy?”
“Why not. You’re the mayor now. You can do anything.”
“Yeah… sweet. Can we go home now?”
“It’s like 11 a.m. There’s still stuff to do.”
“I’m not. You’re pouting.”
“The thing about being the TTC boss is that we’re going to so mess it up but it’ll be their face attached, you see what I’m saying?”
“… no… not really.”
“Doesn’t matter. Just trust me on this, OK? It’s a good move. We’re going to vote for Stintzie to be TTC Chair.”
“Hey. Whatever you say. You’re the boss.”
“And it’s also good, she’s a girl.”
“Dunno. Why would it be?”
“… Yo, Adrienne! It’d be good to have a chick run the TTC, right?”
With that scene (or some reasonable facsimile thereof), Councillor Karen Stintz became TTC Chair Karen Stintz and dutifully fulfilled her role as a loyal Team Ford member, standing silently by as the mayor killed Transit City and obediently overseeing a 10% cut to the department’s budget when asked. She pretty much did what the mayor and almost everyone expected her to do.
And then, then she went rogue. No, check that. She went Michael Corleone on Team Ford’s asses.
I’m unprepared to attach motives to the about face. The better angel of my nature, that blackened, wizened, flightless better angel, likes to think she simply grew into her position. Listening to staff and other knowledgeable voices around her, she slowly realized Mayor Ford’s transit plan, such as it was, was unworkable. Way back last October, she raised a red flag of concern about how they were going to tunnel the Eglinton LRT across the Don Valley.
When then TTC General Manager Gary Webster backed her view that LRTs might be the smartest way forward, the mayor and his TTC commissioner boys iced him at the proverbial toll booth. If their goal was to intimidate the TTC Chair back into line, it failed spectacularly. In retaliation, she offs the mayor’s men on the TTC commission, emerging from the fracas in The Limey style.
Tell them I’m coming! I’m fucking coming.
(Yes, municipal politics came be this cinematic.)
It was all downhill for the mayor from that point. In short order, he was pushed, kicking and screaming Subways! Subways! Subways, to the sidelines. Transit City revived in all but name. And then this week, the TTC Chair and her Vice-Chair unveiled a much grander, 30 year transit plan called One City that lit up the switchboards for about 2 days before the province went out of its way to throw cold water on it. (That’s for another post entirely. Suffice to say, the premier and Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation might be well served noting how our TTC Chair dealt with the mayor when he crossed her.)
How One City grew to even see the light of day is, if nothing else, instructive as to how Toronto can actually govern itself in the absence of mayoral leadership. Take a moment to read John McGrath’s account of it at Open File, Don Peat’s in the Toronto Sun and David Rider’s in the Star. It is a microcosm of how council can and should be working together on vital initiatives for the city. A centre-right, centrist and two left wing councillors setting aside ideological differences in order to put forth a discussion paper on how to move forward on building a transit system Toronto so desperately needs. A discussion neither the mayor is capable of conducting and our dark overlords at Queen’s Park are unwilling to consider.
If nothing else, this latest transit saga has shown what is possible in a leadership vacuum when a politician sees that normal operating procedures don’t apply and decides to fill in the void constructively. Karen Stintz, arguably a councillor of little consequence during her first two terms in office, has seized the “opportunity” given her under this malignantly negligent administration and made a mark in a file not usually known for its generosity toward those toiling within its parameters. It’s a lesson others granted positions of power under Mayor Ford could well learn from and act upon.
– auteurly submitted by Cityslikr