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Karen Stintz takes a few pokes at Rob Ford in town-hall panel

Toronto City Councillor and TTC Chair Karen Stintz attends a council meeting on Nov. 28, 2012. Stinz has hinted that she might be open to a possible by-election campaign.

Chris Young/The Globe and Mail

Her name linked to a mayoral run, Councillor Karen Stintz used a town-hall panel Tuesday night to take a couple of pokes at Rob Ford.

Ms. Stintz, the Toronto Transit Commission chair, took part in a discussion on whether the city's political leadership had failed residents.

Ms. Stintz was complimentary of the mayor for much of the discussion. She said he has shown real leadership on fiscal issues.

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However, she also said there have been times when there has been "an absence" of leadership and council has had to step in.

"There also have been some other noisy issues that have detracted from the agenda," she told the few dozen people in attendance. "I think those issues are very detrimental to the city, quite candidly. I think that if we had a stronger agenda from a mayor, from Mayor Ford on what he wants to accomplish out of the next two years, it would help alleviate some of the noise that takes place when we have sideshow issues."

Ms. Stintz has said it's too early to tell whether she will run for mayor. She has also said she won't close the door on running.

She told reporters after the event that the city already has a mayor and she is not campaigning.

Mr. Ford's appeal in the conflict-of-interest case that ordered him removed from office was heard this month, but a ruling has not yet been issued.

If the mayor loses his appeal, city council could vote to hold a by-election, or appoint a replacement. Ms. Stintz, a fiscal conservative who led a council revolt against the mayor over the Transit City plan, raised eyebrows when she joined the town hall, due to its topic. She said she took part to provide balance to the panel, and a different perspective.

The panel was hosted by George Smitherman, who lost the mayoral race in 2010. Mr. Smitherman said he is content and does not plan to run again.

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Ms. Stintz was joined on the panel by fellow councillor Gord Perks. Mr. Perks said he also does not plan to run for mayor.

Ms. Stintz made headlines this week when she defended a $50-million sole-source contract for subway newsstands and cafés.

The contract is with Tobmar Investments International Inc., the current operator of the TTC's 65 Gateway Newstands, two cafés, two bakeries and eight lottery booths. It includes a $1.5-million signing bonus and a pledge to invest $1.45-million in improving the outlets. In awarding the sole-source deal, the TTC rejected staff advice to issue a request for proposals for operating the outlets.

Councillor Doug Ford, the mayor's brother, was among those to criticize the deal, as was Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong.

Ms. Stintz has said the operator came to the TTC offering an increase in rent and a signing bonus. Each of the stores is independently franchised and are all run by local owners, which is another advantage, she said.

With files from Elizabeth Church

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