Remember way back in 2008 when Karen Stintz took public speaking lessons in order to, in her words, not sound so “shrill”? It was at considerable expense—$4,500—and everyone assumed she was preparing for a run at the mayor’s office. But what the voice lessons really revealed was that the 41-year-old city councillor from north Toronto isn’t a natural politician—at least not of the smooth-talking, glad-handing, limelight-loving variety. Stintz is a plain-spoken and pragmatic fiscal conservative whose political MO begins and ends with acting responsibly. When Rob Ford chose her as chair of the TTC, he no doubt thought he was getting an ideologue—a fellow right-wing councillor who had sat on the sidelines during the Miller years and would faithfully toe the new party line. Silly mayor.
Though Stintz was initially on board with Ford’s subway plan—who wouldn’t prefer an entire underground transit system?—she crunched the numbers and realized the scheme was unattainable. Ford didn’t have the money, and he likely never would. So she did what any reasonable person in her position would do. She proposed an LRT plan that would cost less and move more people. Undeterred by the constant sloganeering and talk-radio contortions of the Ford brothers, she sought consensus from her fellow councillors and won. Ford called her a backstabber.
Stintz transcended the juvenile partisanship and near-comical rhetoric that is Ford’s city hall by adhering to higher political ideals. She showed an approach to governing that’s principled, diligent and effective. The savvy political play once again led to speculation about Stintz’s mayoral ambitions. Maybe that’s because someone at city hall was finally acting like a mayor.