By TOM GODFREY
A battle by three Conservatives to topple Rob Ford is heating up with candidates trying to out-shine and out-perform the popular mayor.
Things began simmering this week after well-known talk show host John Tory and former TTC chair Karen Stintz ended weeks of speculation and tossed their gloves into the ring to unseat the Conservative Ford in the October 27 municipal elections.
Tory’s camp managed to one-up Stintz by making his mayoral pronouncement two hours ahead of hers in a bid to garner headlines.
The contenders have some catching up to do since Ford, with his campaign manager brother, Doug, have been on the hustings for weeks attending dozens of events while passing out refrigerator magnets with his name to supporters.
Tory, like Ford, is privileged. He did not grow up wanting in Rosedale and is a right of centre Conservative, like Stintz, who is willing to listen to residents before forming a decision on issues.
He is inclusive and makes level-headed decisions which have been lacking on City Council for more than a year, but escalated greatly after the Ford drug scandal broke.
Tory, to his credit, is not a drama queen like Ford, who constantly ignores the media while consorting with seedy characters. The former Rogers Communications executive is willing to work with Council to have motions passed, unlike the incumbent.
Some are concerned that Tory is to closely aligned to the city’s business elite, with the winners being big business if he claims the mayor’s seat. There is nothing wrong with being pro-business to grow jobs and revenue, but that has to be balanced with the needs of struggling taxpayers.
The former Ontario PC party leader and long-time volunteer chair of the Greater Toronto Civic Action Alliance, Tory is active in the community and familiar with the issues being a life-long Toronto resident.
After three failed attempts for public office, including one for Toronto mayor in 2003 in which he was defeated by David Miller, the former businessman if elected plans to tackle traffic congestion, high taxes and a downtown relief subway line.
But, will that be enough to defeat the Gravy Train-fighting Ford, who with a phone call will show up at the door of a constituent to address concerns or inspect their home after maintenance complaints to others have failed.
Stintz, on the other hand, may have an advantage in that she has a track record having been on council for more than 10 years. She has done a good job as TTC chair having to deal with budget pressures and lack of resources.
Stintz, 43, is familiar with the issues and can hit the ground running. She is popular in the downtown area and fights for her Ward 16 constituents.
The mother of two is no stranger to Tory and fourth Conservative mayoral rival, former councillor and businessman David Soknacki. She was a volunteer for Tory’s mayoral bid in 2003.
Stintz is a shrewd politician who is targeting voters who are frustrated by Ford’s drug-taking and other antics and want him out of office. She is courting and counting on the anti-Ford sentiment to win.
She says if she is elected, she plans to work on a downtown relief line, reform the land transfer tax and explore a “hybrid” solution for the eastern section of the Gardiner Expressway.
Look for her positioning herself as a “responsible and accountable” uniter, who is better able to achieve results on Council than Ford.
With the Conservatives out of the gate, voters are now asking how long will it be until NDP MP Olivia Chow enters the mayoral free-for-all to attract those on the political left.