She's the mayor's onetime rival and likely opponent in the next election, but for now Karen Stintz and Rob Ford are on the same track.
The TTC chair has had a running feud with Mayor Ford ever since she scuttled his Sheppard subway plan at council last year, and at one point their relationship was so testy that she publicly complained he wouldn't return her calls.
But as reports surfaced Thursday that the province and city are close to a deal to replace a planned Scarborough light rail project with a subway, Stintz told reporters she's cooperating with the mayor to make the underground transit scheme a reality.
"The mayor's office and my office have been in tight discussions over the last several days, and it is my hope that I can stand shoulder to shoulder with the mayor and deliver on a commitment for a subway to Scarborough," she said.
Stintz originally backed a plan to build a LRT line to replace the rickety Scarborough RT. At her urging, last fall council authorized the city to enter into an agreement with the province to build the project with $1.8 billion from Queen's Park.
But she has since reconsidered, claiming that extending the Bloor-Danforth subway by three stops into the eastern suburb is a better way to go. Seeking clarity on the subject, two weeks ago the provincial transit agency Metrolinx told the city it needed council to come to a decision once and for all on which rail project to pursue.
Since then, Stintz and Ford's office have been speaking with the province about reopening the master agreement for the light rail project.
Transportation Minister Glen Murray signaled Thursday he was open to the subway option. "I really am not fussed about whether it's a subway or an LRT," the Globe and Mail quoted him as saying.
Council will debate the idea at its meeting next week when the city manager tables a report on choosing between subway and LRT. The report is expected to be made public on Friday.
In May, council voted 35-9 to support the Scarborough subway extension in principle, and Stintz is optimistic her colleagues will vote in favour of it again now that the province is watching.
"I can't predict the outcome of next week, but I am confident that given the fact that we actually do have a funded subway plan, that council will find it acceptable," she said.
But while she described the proposal as "funded," it's far from clear who would pay for the subway extension, or even how much it would cost. Stintz maintains the project would come in at $2.3 billion, while Metrolinx estimates it would be closer to $2.8 billion.
The province pledged $1.8 billion for the original LRT project, and Stintz expects Queen's Park to keep that money on the table. The TTC chair also hopes to secure federal funding for the subway, and said Thursday that the city could make up the remaining difference by taking on debt.
According to the Globe, however, Murray said the province would not ask the city to pay anything extra for the subway.
There is also the issue of sunk costs on the LRT project. Metrolinx says $85 million has already been spent.
While the mayor, TTC chair, and province appear to be enjoying a rare moment of harmony on the transit file, not everyone at City Hall is pleased at where the subway debate is headed.
Councillor Janet Davis fears it is petty politics, not sound transit planning, that has revived the Scarborough subway idea. A by-election is taking place in Scarborough-Guildwood next month, and Davis said promising voters there an expensive subway was "a desperate election move on the part of the Liberal government."
"This looks like another energy plant cancellation," she said. "Why is it that all of a sudden there's a billion dollars maybe on the table today that wasn't here last week? One has to wonder what is the motivation of the provincial government right now in the middle of a by-election."
Davis questions why council would even consider spending more money on a subway when there are other pressing priorities like a $1.6 billion capital repair backlog at Toronto Water, and the province has already promised to pay the full cost of an LRT.
"We have a transit plan that's been debated at least three, if not four times. If this derails once again - rapid transit into Scarborough - I think there are a lot of people who are going to have to provide explanations."
Ford would not answer reporters questions about the subway plan when he arrived at his office shortly before noon.