Clear the track, here comes... George Smitherman?[rssbreak]
That much-publicized on-again, off-again bid for mayor looks to be on again with news that Councillor Karen Stintz has abandoned her mayoral plans.
It may seem counterintuitive to John Tory fans, but Stintz's vacating suggests Smitherman is emerging as the choice for Libs and Tories alike. What about Tory, then? I'll explain later.
But first, was Stintz pushed by the city's kingmakers or did she go willingly, lured by the promise (payoff?) of a provincial seat?
Stintz isn't saying if she's the latest would-be candidate for mayor persuaded not to run by the powers that be. On the surface it looks like she's cleared the decks for a chosen one, i.e., John Tory.
But it seems that Tory may not be "the one" for conservatives. For weeks, the conventional wisdom has been that he's the right's choice. But the sand is shifting beneath his feet as we speak.
Scuttlebutt in some circles is that Tories who view three-time loser Tory as a consolation prize would be happy, thank you very much, with Smitherman if he does decide to run. Those public-private partnerships he brokered as health minister caught the attention of privateers.
Interesting theory if you follow the money. And with Smitherman it leads to the biggest Tory power broker of them all: Ralph Lean, who was instrumental in helping push Miller over the top.
The bigger dilemma for progressives and David Miller allies is who will emerge on the left. The field's getting precariously thin. Is there a palatable candidate with the stature and support to raise enough money to take a shot?
Not on council, some would suggest, with all due respect to Adam Giambrone's musings about a run. Too much, too fast for the wunderkind who, if he's smart, will pull the plug now. Already some on the left are beginning to roll their eyes at Giambrone's audacity.
"You need more than ego and drive to run for mayor," says one colleague.
A mayoral run by Joe Pantalone makes more sense. He's still thinking about it, and saying all the right things about the city needing "strong and knowledgeable leadership." The positive: he's a political veteran with a track record. The negative: he lacks star appeal. Could a jump to provincial politics be in the cards?
Outside of possible council candidates, the pickings get even slimmer - and more intriguing at the same time - for the left.
Olivia Chow's name is one that keeps coming up. "Highly unlikely," is how one observer assesses Chow's chances of running. Another council insider says she's "not interested at all."
But the rumblings won't go away. Chow's not answering emails, at least not ours, on the subject of her political future and whether it includes a glorious return as the conquering hero. She's kept the home fires burning on the Island Airport file.
She's also got the chops - and the NDP machine, if she needs it, at her beckon call. She's a darling of the downtown core. Question is, can she score enough votes in the burbs? There's potential voter appeal in sizable ethnic Chinese enclaves in Scarberia. Etobicoke and North York are another story.
If not Chow, or none of the above, then who? Labour types are still trying to figure that out.
The Toronto Civic Employees Union Local 416 is keeping its cards close to the vest. But two names that have bubbled to the surface are Glenn Murray, the former Winnipeg mayor and fan of the public service, and Shelley Carroll, the city's budget chief. The problem for Carroll is that she's a card-carrying Liberal and won't go if Smitherman decides to.
Forget all this talk about who's running and who's not, says Councillor Paula Fletcher.
All the speculation is distracting from the important task at hand - namely, passing "the big pieces," as Fletcher calls them, left of the mayor's agenda.
It's too early, Fletcher says, to be kicking around names now.
Just to stir the pot, though, would, say, United Way head and former NDP cabinet minister Frances Lankin or ex-Parkdale MP Peggy Nash fit the bill?