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To Milton, with love

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The mayoralty in her sights, Councillor Karen Stintz has already begun to lay the foundation for her 2010 platform.

With more than three years to go before nominations open, the North Toronto councillor is offering a distinctly more ideologically right-wing platform than this city has seen from a mainstream candidate since amalgamation.

Stintz outlined her approach to municipal government at a couple of recent speeches, including one to the Economic Club of Toronto.

User pays
The City of Toronto, in general terms, has user-funded programs and programs funded off of the property tax base. Stintz sees the latter as inefficient and wants the market to determine what services are offered, where and when through user fees for just about everything the law will allow. The second-term councillor feels that this will reduce the burden on the property tax base and inform where service cuts get made in the future. The burden Stintz seems alarmingly unconcerned about is the one that will be bourn by Toronto’s most vulnerable residents.

Stintz is looking to split up the work of the City into smaller contracts and then allow the existing civic unions to bid against private contractors. The intent here is to drive down the cost of labour and give management more control of the terms of employment (also known as union busting.) What Stintz hasn’t grappled with is the fact that the City has a terrible record when it comes to managing contracts with the private sector and the moral issues involved in the “race to the bottom” mentality.

By putting this on the table now, Stintz seems to be looking to get elected with a mandate that would allow her to hold out as long as necessary during what you can be sure would be the ugliest of ugly strikes in 2012.

Upload the TTC
I’m more than a little perplexed by municipal politicians who want to allow the provincial government to take control of so much Toronto real estate. Then again, this fits in well with Stintz’s ideological push to split the unions. If you aren’t familiar with the issue, here is Dale Duncan’s take.

Intergovernmental affairs
Stintz is looking for an end to the One Cent Now campaign. Instead, the card-carrying Conservative thinks that Toronto should work around Stephen Harper’s priorities, especially childcare and corporate tax cuts. Given Harper’s track record on the cities file and with Toronto specifically, I find it mind boggling that any local politician would tie themselves so closely to this federal government.

…Now that’s a platform Milton Friedman would be proud of.

Photo courtesy City of Toronto.



  1. I’m a Miller supporter but I’m against pieces like this that present his opponents along a purely ideological spectrum. Stintz isn’t a “union-buster” like Wal-Mart, she’s seeking better value for money on services that others can provide for cheaper. As long as the city sets high standards for the quality of work being done, I’m all for it.

    The way I see it, if we can save money on garbage collection and street cleaning, that means more money for services in Jane Finch, Malvern and other places that need it. And more money for city-wide transit too.

    Municipal government is about problem-solving much more than the grand ideological visions of national politics. The most successful mayors around the world borrow ideas from across the ideological spectrum.

  2. User Pays,

    Good Idea. Currently the burden is more heavily soldiered by the poor. As demographics show, they are more likely to be renters. As such they pay a significantly higher percentage of property tax (through there rent). Furthermore in the outlying area’s they are increasingly (average 11.75% increase between 1991 to 20001 and increased from then) having to travel outside of the city to find work. Of course the city further supports them by wanting to increase transit spending within the 416 area only.


    Not again with the ‘race for the bottom’ argument. Especially from someone whom ‘race for the top’ is funded by taxpayers.

    Upload the TTC,

    Great idea! Don’t try to paint this as a real estate grab. Besides maybe all the people who live in the outlying areas will have their needs addressed (see first point). The TTC seems to think that there is a great going to be a great demand for unemployed people to take transit to their non existing jobs in the 416. With the exception of all the factories in their areas which are now used car dealerships.

    Intergovernmental affairs,

    I would rather have a card carrying conservative than a card hiding NDPer. Miller has campaigned and run this city in a manner which has hidden the true cost of programs from the electorate. Perhaps if the full burden was applied our elected officials would be more judicious with spending.

  3. Glen > there is a lot of ignorant info in your comment. I wish I had time to explain why (but kids and dinner call) but your arguments are the ones that seem based on ideology.

    Fin > Stintz is a union-buster type. If you heard her speeches to residents and organizations like the Economic Club, the crowd she wants to back her, you’d take that back in a sec.

  4. There are many labourers who genuinely do not want to be members of a union. They deserve the right to work on city contracts as much as anybody else.

  5. “There are many labourers who genuinely do not want to be members of a union.”

    And I want a pony.

  6. The thing about Stintz is: she might not be the only serious right-of-centre (or at least, right-of-so-called-Miller-Mafia) mayoral prospect for 2010. (And there’d be an odd “Hillary Obama” dynamic to a tussle btw/Stintz + Michael Thompson…)

  7. She seems more reasonable and less reactionary than Ford. She’ll probably get more middle-road votes than someone like him would.

    And I would think having a platform that a Nobel prize winning economist would be proud of is a good thing.

  8. I’m with Fin: if you want to make those kind of claims, you really should back them up with more detail. I just read the Economic Club speech, and she doesn’t come across as dumb or ideological, though definitely a bit awestruck with the federal Conservatives.

    In the area of user fees, she cleverly uses the examples of yoga and pilates. Many people wouldn’t see those as necessities, and would happily vote to cut costs that way.

    As for privatization, she describes things the city should seek, including the ability to contract out, in the next round of negotiations. That’s a far cry from Jane Pitfield’s instincts to simply eliminate unions, and again will come across as reasonable to many people.

    It’s no surprise that she won’t attract a ton of NDP votes in three years time. But isn’t the real story here the number of votes that speeches like these could bring her way if Miller’s troubles continue and there isn’t a good “progressive” alternative?

  9. Karen Stintz is very articulate and very fashionable, but it will be the Toronto politician that convinces the federal and provincial govts to give back a little bit more of what’s owing to TO. Plus I wish Karen Stintz would think big about Toronto transit’s potential – the TTC could and should eat up the 905 systems. The DRT only has about 10 buses. I got a new name snappy for the GTTTTTA – call it the TTC. PS: Leave Mississauga Transit alone – I wouldn’t mess with Hazel McCallion.

  10. Fin: I don’t think ideology has a place in removing a tree or filling a pothole and I agree that municipal politics, at its best, is about building across party lines but Stintz is taking plays right out of the ideological free market playbook.

    Matt L: I’m not saying Stintz is dumb; I’m saying she’s got a dangerously poor vision for Toronto. While Stintz isn’t theorizing for an entire economy, her words are euphamisms for a Friedmanite realignment of City Hall.

    But you’re right, it is clever to use examples like yoga and pilates. Though think about what the Welcome Policy is supposed to accomplish. It’s intended to integrate newcomers and socially isolated people into the community.

    …The City of Toronto already has the right to contract out many, many of its services — and it does. But I don’t think people would find it reasonable to contract out services that wouldn’t save the City money and could well end up costing it more (City staff have recommended against additional contracting out because it wouldn’t save money.)

    Forget the NDP votes, Stintz won’t attract many Liberal or Red Tory votes either. During the Q&A after the Economic Club speech, Stintz said she thought she could cut up to 5,000 jobs (10% of the workforce) without residents feeling a pinch. That may make Common Sense but it doesn’t make common sense.

  11. The real joke here is Freudenthaler’s feeble attempt to paint some pretty tepid reforms as Friedmanite to rouse the proletariat. To the barricades! Not.

  12. The left-right tug of war isn’t leading us anywhere. We need a mayor who can convince the province and the feds to find pragmatic, long term solutions for our city, no matter what their political stripes. We need cooperation between all levels or we go nowhere.

  13. Sorry Adam, I’m not convinced. I have no doubt you do great work as an activist but this kind of piece demands a journalist’s descriptive objectivity and you don’t demonstrate that.

    Ultimately, my beef is this: I think Miller’s chances for reelection are being hurt by his more doctrinaire left-wing supporters. They oppose the kind of changes that would make the city more efficient, shore up Miller’s public support and generate the political capital he needs to make truly transformative change: Transit City, stronger community centres, late library hours, rebuilding streets to make them more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly, etc.

  14. The left in Toronto and its allies really needs to start asking itself what its smugness is costing the City in cold hard cash. Reading the comments of the usual suspects in places like Spacing and Now etc., and being somewhat familiar with the thinking of senior bureaucrats in Queens Park, I can safely say that Toronto will never get the type of deal it is looking for from senior governments. I would have liked to think that these sort of ideological blinders no longer existed in this day and age but I am proven wrong again and again. Governments as large as that of Toronto need to at least pretend to desire efficiency; yet Toronto’s leadership steadfastly refuses to do this, believing, so credulously that it is, in fact, special and unique. Perhaps introducing some of the measures that the province and feds themselves have taken in difficult times might be a start. It sucks that someone may not get a pay raise, or a resident may have to pay a few bucks for a service that was free, but that’s life folks; there is no magic money tree. The unions aren’t untouchable, value for money requires competitive bidding (and employing staff that can manage a contract); mature governments get this (because they have to). Toronto will only get the money and power it desires when it looses the santimony and enters the real world. Stintz has my vote.

  15. Governments as large as that of Toronto need to at least pretend to desire efficiency;

    Tom B., it’s been shown time and again, in multiple audits, that the City of Toronto is run far more efficiently than either the provincial or federal governments.

  16. blarg could u please give us a specific example instead of rhetoric?Where is this efficiency?This government is a spendaholic and just can’t seem to stop.If you mean spending our money without reservation then you are right they are extremely efficient at bankrupting this city.

  17. Look at the KPMG audit, George.

    Its really up to you to prove that the City is not spending the money well. Part of that has to do with your personal politics. For example, Rob Ford and Janet Davis think they know what efficiency and proper spending looks like at City Hall, but their views are two different worlds.

    But an accounting firm doesn’t have that bias so I will take them at their word that the City is run well.

    I would agree that there are lots of areas for improvement and I want Toronto taxpayers to get he most for their buck, too.

  18. Matt, could you direct me to the KPMG audit referred to. Does it really say that the City is run well?

  19. well thank you for your response. In fact the auditor general is investigating many areas of questionable spending by the city of toronto.It would be interesting to see those results.As for my personal politics I like to think that I am on the side of the owners and residents of trinity spadina.Those are the people who pay the bill, if everything was going perfectly well why then is there a problem at all at city hall.Remember I didn’t create the financial crisis at city hall.But I do believe that those responsible should be outed and taken to task.The KPMG report that you speak of only reports on the figures at hand and doesn’t address the real underlining problems that the new taxes are supposed to solve.