Photo by Ben Spurr
Karen Stintz will be part of a panel discussion Tuesday night about whether Toronto's political leadership has "failed," but the TTC chair who many see as a potential mayoral candidate denies she's positioning herself to replace Rob Ford.
The event will be hosted by George Smitherman, Ford's bitter rival in the 2010 election, and will tackle questions that suggest the mayor has done a less-than-stellar job during his first two years in office. They include: "Has Toronto's political leadership failed the city? What leadership does Toronto need? Who would do better?"
Stintz wasn't originally on the panel, but was added at the suggestion of her assistant who thought the panel needed "balance." He asked organizers last week if she could take part.
Despite the event's potential anti-Ford slant, Stintz says she doesn't intend to use the opportunity to bash the mayor. Instead, she plans to highlight the work of those at City Hall who she feels have been strong leaders. That's a group that she believes does include Ford, at least on some files.
"I think Mayor Ford has demonstrated some strong leadership around the budget," Stintz told reporters Tuesday, "I think council has shown strong leadership when it needed to, and I think there's been some strong leadership around transit demonstrated by [new TTC chief] Andy Byford."
"We've demonstrated leadership at various levels and I think [it's] important to tell that story too."
But the councillor for Eglinton-Lawrence also acknowledged that the gaffe-prone Ford has sometimes detracted from his own agenda.
"I think it's important to acknowledge leadership where it's come from, but also important to acknowledge there has been some distractions along the way," she said.
That message - that Ford's fiscal priorities are sound but his behaviour often unacceptable - could well form the basis of a mayoral challenge should Stintz ever choose to run against Ford. As a fiscal conservative who has earned both bipartisan praise and much media attention for her work as TTC chair, she is uniquely positioned to be the standard bearer for council's right-wing faction in the next election.
A mayoral vote could come as early as this spring, if Ford loses his appeal of the conflict of interest case that booted him from office last November. A judgment in the case is expected any day, and if he is ousted, council will have a choice to either call a by-election, reappoint Ford, or appoint another councillor to the city's top job.
Two weeks ago, Stintz told journalists she was "not inclined" to support Ford's reappointment if he were removed.
But she remains coy on whether she'd throw her own hat in the ring if council opts for a by-election.
Asked Monday if she had put any further thought into running for mayor, Stintz flashed a wide smile, laughed, and said, "Again, we have a mayor."
The panel event takes place at Revival on College Tuesday night. Stintz's fellow panelists include left-wing Councillor Gord Perks, Ryerson urban planning professor Mitchell Kosny, Doc's Leathers owner Doc von Lichtenberg, and Globe & Mail Small Business editor Sean Stanleigh.
NDP MP Olivia Chow, who recent polls suggest would beat Ford in a by-election, was also invited but was not available.