Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Karen Stintz, not Rob Ford, looks mayoral in response to federal budget

By: Metro Published on Fri Mar 22 2013

Yesterday's federal budget announcement should have been a gimme for Mayor Rob Ford — an easy chance to score some leadership points. Instead, the day belonged to TTC chair Karen Stintz.

With longtime Ford family friend Jim Flaherty delivering another budget, the mayor was handed an opportunity so obvious that it's hard to imagine how he might have missed it. Because that budget — coming from a federal government our mayor formally endorsed in 2011 — just so happens to include some talk of federal support for municipal infrastructure.

In other words: maybe some funding for Toronto transit. Possibly even some of those “subways, subways, subways” Ford likes to talk about.

Ford had a chance to come out swinging and take some credit for the existence of any infrastructure money. He could have pledged to work with Flaherty and his old fishing buddy, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, to ensure a portion of available funds goes toward easing Toronto's gridlock. And he could have used this as an opening to slam his detractors, like me, who have claimed — mostly accurately — that he has no plan to fund the subways to Scarborough he says are so important.

But no. Instead, it was almost as if the mayor and his staff had forgotten that yesterday was budget day. Ford's office first indicated only that the mayor would not be making any statement. They then followed that up by emailing out a two-sentence quote.

Meanwhile, there was Stintz, looking prepared and, yes, mayoral. She and her team did something Ford rarely does, letting reporters know in advance that she'd be commenting publicly on the federal budget only minutes after its release. And her comments were straightforward. A big chunk of any federal money for infrastructure, she said, should go directly to construction of the subway Toronto needs — the downtown relief line.

It was a near-perfect moment for Stintz, reminding us that a mayor's job is primarily to advocate for the needs of the city they're elected to represent. And that it sure is hard to be an advocate when you don't even bother to show up. Stintz has said repeatedly that she won't run against Ford in the 2014 municipal election. After yesterday, it might be time to reconsider.

This post was originally published at on 2013-03-22T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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