Karen Stintz bows out of mayor’s race

The field of Toronto mayoral candidates narrowed on Thurday, with Councillor Karen Stintz announcing that she is bowing out of the race.

Stintz, councillor for Ward 16 Eglinton-Lawrence, made the announcement in a five-minute speech at City Hall on Thursday morning, saying she had made the decision “with great disappointment.”

“I am disappointed that my vision and ideas did not gain the traction I had hoped,” she said. “This has impacted my financial ability to continue. Absent a more substantial level of support, I must conclude my efforts.

“I am proud though of my efforts over the last six months. I am proud that I’m someone who stood up against the odds to make a difference in our city. And through my efforts I believe I made an impact on the mayor’s race. It has been an honour and a great privilege to be part of it.”

Karen Stintz drops out from NOW Magazine on Vimeo.

Her exit means that after 11 years, Stintz is leaving City Hall. She said she won’t run for council this fall and in an interview with CP24 later in the day she asserted that, “My political career, in the short term and long term, is over.” She did not say what she plans to do once the council term ends in December, and declined to endorse any of the other candidates.

A three-term councillor, Stintz built a high profile this term as chair of the TTC, a position she relinquished in February to run for mayor. But although she pledged to stay in the game until election day, her candidacy never gained the necessary momentum to see her through to the October 27 vote.

It got off to a rocky start on February 24 when she called media to City Hall to watch her file her nomination papers, only to find she hadn’t brought the necessary ID to register. It had to be fetched by a staffer. More troubling for Stintz, her entry into the race was overshadowed by another high-profile conservative candidate, John Tory, also throwing his registering earlier that same day.

Running on a small-spending, transit-heavy platform, Stintz promised to follow through on building the Scarborough subway, raise funds for a downtown relief line by selling off city assets like shares in Toronto Hydro, and create a “transportation czar” to oversee transit in the region.

In an interview with NOW Magazine in June, she said she knew she had to be in third place by Labour Day in order to have a shot, but she ultimately failed to gain any ground on the big three candidates in Tory, Olivia Chow, and Mayor Rob Ford. Polls have consistently found she has only around five per cent support, putting her in a virtual tie for fourth with David Soknacki.

The leading mayoral candidates each issuied press releases Thursday thanking her for her contribution to the race.

“She championed Toronto neighbourhoods and families,” said Tory in a statement. ” We all owe her a debt of gratitude for her public service.”

In a scrum outside City Hall, Chow thanked Stintz for being a “role model to a lot of young women” who want to get involved in politics. Chow made a play to woo Stintz’s supporters, highlighting similarities between her own campaign and that of the former TTC chair, including their shared emphasis on the downtown relief line.

In a wry statement Soknacki said that Stintz “will be missed at our next fifty debates.” While arguing that in her time at the TTC she had “left too many challenges on the table,” he credited her with pushing through the plan to build the Eglinton Crosstown LRT.

Mayor Ford also weighed in with an emailed statement, calling Stintz “a valuable ally who supported me in delivering on my fiscally responsible agenda.”

Stintz’s relationship with the mayor has been thorny but complex. Ford appointed her to the TTC post upon taking office, but in February 2012 she enraged the mayor by blocking his plan to build a Sheppard subway, and replaced it with an LRT line instead.

Although the transit battle led to a bitter public feud with Ford and his councillor brother, throughout Stintz’s campaign she touted her support for the mayor’s budget-cutting efforts as one of her main credentials.

In April Ford was forced to take a leave of absence for addiction treatment after he was recorded in an Etobicoke bar telling another patron he wanted to “fucking jam” Stintz. At the time Stintz said she was “shocked and embarrassed” by the comment, and Ford later apologized.

On Thursday, Councillor Doug Ford said his brother and Stintz had a “unique relationship.”

“They might not see eye-to-eye on everything” Councillor Ford said, but he asserted that for the most part they had “enjoyed each other’s company.”

While she didn’t make it to election day, Stintz’s candidacy may yet have a long-lasting effect on the city.

In a move widely seen as an attempt to lay the groundwork for her mayoral bid, she engineered the council vote that approved the $3.6-billion Scarborough subway, a project decried by critics as a huge waste of money that will serve fewer people than a proposed LRT along roughly the same route. Stintz had previously supported the LRT, but changed her mind.

bens@nowtoronto.com | @BenSpurr

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