I’m flying blind here, a patchy distant spectator to last week’s critical stage of the seemingly never-ending transit debate at city council. The Great Stintz Uprising has probably been covered thoroughly from the last train to engine. But do we here in Toronto ever tire of talking transit planning? My educated guess is that this will hardly be the last word on the matter.
The near perfectly played Stintzinian Manoeuvre should hardly have come as a surprise although Mayor Ford certainly reacted like it was. Among the chattering class here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke, we had long pondered what she was doing, a relatively moderate right of centre councillor, fraternizing with the hardcore conservative ideologues that make up the mayor’s club. There were mayoral ambitions on her part to be sure, dating back as far as 2006. Perhaps the goal all along was to use a very high profile spot like, say, TTC chair to mount an insider coup. Work with Mayor Ford for a bit, play the good, faithful soldier until the time was right, and when and where the mayor appeared weak, boom. Hey. I tried working with these guys but they’re deaf to compromise, unwilling to listen to any other voices except their own. Transit intransigent.
By breaking so publicly with Team Ford, on such a highly charged item like transit, Councillor Stintz helped isolate them, reinforcing the ‘radical’ tag council’s left guard had been touting since the new year. In fact, Team Ford wasn’t at all the reasonable, responsible types they claimed themselves to be. The TTC Chair offered up the Sheppard subway in return for keeping the Eglinton LRT above ground eastward from Laird Drive and they wouldn’t budge. Not even an inch. She was the voice of moderation, the true fiscal conservative of the bunch. Karen Stintz for Mayor in 2014!
Or maybe that’s all too Machiavellian, too fiendishly scheming to be true outside of a tightly scripted political narrative. Maybe the councillor accepted the position as TTC chair hoping to exert a moderating influence on the Ford administration. Knowing the mayor as she did from his days on council, Stintz felt she would act as the voice of reason on the transit file that, despite the mayor and his supporters’ insistence that he was elected to build subways, had always been an after-thought to him, a campaign throw-in that seemed to emerge only when he was pushed to answer how he was going to handle transit if elected mayor. When it became clear that, in fact, he was going to good and truly cock things up with his harebrained No Streetcars On My Watch pursuit, Councillor Stintz had to make a stand. Not only for the good of the city’s transit future but, quite possibly, her own.
Until she writes her biography or announces her intention to run for mayor in a couple years, it’ll be nothing more than a guessing game, armchair quarterbacking. In fact, the bigger head-scratcher about all this should be Mayor Ford’s actions. How did he get so badly played or whatever exactly it was his TTC chair did to him. What does it say about his approach to governing that he was overwhelmingly outflanked?
Councillor Stintz had been publicly uneasy with his insistence in burying all of the Eglinton LRT for a few months prior to last week’s showdown. She’d openly expressed her concern about ‘unresolved technical issues’ of crossing the Don valley underground. Red flag, Mayor Ford. Red flag.
Then came the last TTC commission meeting where the Chair asked for a staff report exploring various options including keeping the Eglinton line pretty much like it was in the thought to be deceased Transit City plan. Underground where necessary, above ground where possible. The commission beat that one back but the die was cast. The Chair was going rogue and the mayor was either unable to do anything about it or unconcerned that he would have to. Mayors simply don’t lose on matters of this import.
He was right about that. Mayors don’t lose on issues that big. It just seems Mayor Ford didn’t understand why which may explain how he lost the lead on transit.
It’s almost as if during his 10 years on city council, Ford looked on as both Mayors Lastman and then Miller implemented their respective mandates, relatively unscathed, and concluded that if he just became mayor, he too could push his agenda through. Just like that. Become mayor, rule the city.
Certainly he’d operated that way since assuming office. Decree this, declare that. Who dares defy me! Taking no notice of some surprising setbacks along the way including about $19 million worth in this year’s budget, the mayor blustered on, wilfully ignoring the notion of negotiation that his predecessors had engaged in in order not to be caught flat-footed in council chambers. Being elected mayor gave him an unfettered mandate apparently.
And his reaction and that of his ardent supporters to the defeat at Wednesday’s special council meeting only serves to further underline his regal and shockingly anti-democratic pretensions. Lose big at council? Irrelevant. His mandate would not be derailed merely by a council vote. Hadn’t the 27 councillors who voted against him been listening to his voters? They wanted subways. Subways they would have.
No retreat. No surrender. No compromise. Evidently, a mayor’s vote and the votes of those who voted for him count for more than the councillors who opposed him and their voters. Mayor Ford appears oblivious to how the system he was elected to lead works. He seems incapable or unwilling to abide by the rules and protocol, learning how to play nice, opting instead to bludgeon on, convinced that a big stick is all he needs to beat enough of council into submission.
Divide and conquer propelled him into the mayor’s chair and got him nicely through his first year or so in office. But is that all he’s got in his tool box? A plan B certainly isn’t obvious. There is no finesse. Only rage, indignation and narrow minded resentment.
Such a limited repertoire gets old awfully quickly. Wednesday’s special meeting and vote shows opponents will figure out how to successfully contest it. In this simple bifurcated world Mayor Ford thrives in, an us versus them scenario, all that needs happen for it to falter is there to be more them than us. The mayor has made it very easy for previously stalwart allies like Councillor Stintz to change teams. It’s hard to see how, without some sort of 180-degree turn in approach, he’s going to get them back on side again.
— back in the saddlely submitted by Cityslikr