Toronto Transit Commission chairwoman and city councillor Karen Stintz (Ward 16) won more that just a pivotal vote on the future of subway expansion in the city, she also won the crowd.
Following city council’s vote of 25-18 to proceed with above ground, light rail transit for a portion of the TTC’s new Eglinton-Scarborough cross town transit line, the packed public gallery broke into cheers and a prolonged standing ovation for Stintz and her colleagues.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, for his part, didn’t hang around for the high-fives; he quickly disappeared from the chamber immediately after the vote.
Patricia Moore – an East York resident and passionate transit advocate – was the first to congratulate Stintz.
“I told her that I will campaign for her in the next election,” said Moore while taking the subway home. “I admire Karen Stintz. In the beginning, I was against her because she always agreed with Rob Ford on everything, but reality did finally sink in with her.”
Councillor Maria Augimeri (Ward 9) said she believed the mayor had lost control of council: “He has strong-armed people who were supporters of TransitCity a few months ago. He has forced them to vote his way and they are not happy.”
Earlier in the debate Ford tried to delay the vote by 30 days, but his motion was quickly struck down 19 to 23. Emotions soon flared on the floor.
Scarborough councillor Raymond Cho (Ward 42) likened Ford’s leaderhip style to that of a dictator. He apologized for the remark soon after.
Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti (Ward 7), an ally of Mayor Ford, counterpunched, attacking Stintz’s plan as being identical to former TTC chair Adam Giambrone’s proposal, minus the couch.
“I don’t think this means anything [politically for the mayor]. I think there are about 21 of us standing firm on this. We do what the electorate wants. We will keep pushing through our agenda,” said Mammoliti. “If a few of the middle decide to go with the extreme left on this council, then so be it. People out there are not stupid. They know what’s going on and the next election will speak for itself.”
“This is a victory for council. It is because of council that this meeting was even possible,” said Stintz, who denied the vote was a personal victory.
Stintz also shot back at the mayor’s brother and city councillor, Doug Ford, (Ward 2) who said earlier that the will of the people is supreme, not city council.
“Council reigns supreme,” she said, “and it is council that directly reports back to their constituents. Council spoke on this matter and the province will listen.”
Mayor Ford later dismissed the vote as ‘irrelevant’ and said he was confident that Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty will end up choosing subways.