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Ford to Stintz: It's the subway or the highway

The Brothers Ford are peeved at Karen Stintz, again.

There have been on and off tensions between the Fords and the North Toronto councillor for some time. Now, Councillor Doug Ford says he wants a big shake up at the Toronto Transit Commission, which Ms. Stintz chairs. Asked on Wednesday whether she has a future as chair, he declined to comment.

Mayor Rob Ford, for his part, was asked about his differences with Ms. Stintz when he faced reporters at a Scarborough news conference Wednesday afternoon. She has questioned a costly provincial plan to put a light rapid transit line underground through the eastern stretches of Eglinton Avenue. He wants it underground all the way, cost be damned.

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"I think the commission spoke loud and clear yesterday," he said. He was referring to a vote of the commission on Tuesday that overruled Ms. Stintz. She was seeking a report from the TTC that might have confirmed her doubts about putting LRT vehicles underground for most of the Eglinton line, instead of underground in the centre of the city and on the surface in the less-dense eastern suburbs.

Ford-friendly councillors on the commission voted her down. Ms. Stintz was clearly annoyed. Now the talk around city hall is that the Fords may soon oust her from the TTC. That would be unfortunate, to say the least.

Ms. Stintz did not set out to stick a finger in the mayor's eye when she raised her doubts about the Eglinton line in its current form. She saw a big problem coming down the tracks for the mayor.

The expensive cars ordered for the line were not really designed for extended underground travel, she says. Putting the line underground was impossible through the Don Valley and expensive on eastern Eglinton, adding up to $2-billion to the cost.

There was a political hitch, too. The mayor never took his deal with the province on Eglinton to city council. Councillors were annoyed at that, and many were planning to challenge him when the plan did come to council.

So when Ms. Stintz aired the idea of putting the eastern end of the line on the surface, as originally planned, she thought she was offering Mr. Ford a way out of a sticky spot. The money saved by going with a cheaper plan for Eglinton, she argued, could help pay for Mr. Ford's pet project, a Sheppard subway extension, or for other badly needed transit improvements.

She even thought she had buy-in from the Fords. Doug Ford, she says, was positive when she broached it with him in a meeting.

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Well, he isn't positive now. The Fords, who put a premium on loyalty, are treating Ms. Stintz as a mutineer.

She doesn't deserve that. Only weeks ago, she rallied to their side in a key vote over the city budget. When middle-of-the-road councillors thwarted the mayor by amending his budget to save $15-million worth of programs threatened with the axe, she delivered a passionate speech to city council on the need to stop borrowing from the future to cover spending in the present.

Now the Fords have repaid Ms. Stintz by sandbagging her at the transit commission. Her compromise proposal for Eglinton is stalled. Mr. Ford has rallied a group of Scarborough councillors to support him on undergrounding the Eglinton line through the eastern suburbs. Left-leaning councillors, meanwhile, are trying to revive Transit City, the network of light-rail lines championed by David Miller when he was mayor. Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency, is pleading with the city to get its act together and arrive at a common position.

It will all go to city council in April. Ms. Stintz, meanwhile, is twisting in the wind, her job at the TTC hanging by a thread. Why? Because she said what was on her mind and called nonsense by its name.

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About the Author
Toronto columnist

Marcus Gee is Toronto columnist for the Globe and Mail, Canada's national newspaper.Born in Toronto, he graduated from the University of British Columbia in 1979 with a degree in modern European history, then worked as a reporter for The Province, Vancouver's morning newspaper. More

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