PHOTO: CRAIG SCORGIE

Karen Stintz, BA ’92, Dipl ’93, has her sights set on Toronto’s top municipal job  

Written by Jane Antoniak

Karen Stintz loves football. A devoted Baltimore Ravens fan, her Toronto City Hall office has several bronzed footballs on the shelves. She inherited the love of the game from her dad, Henry, who hails from Baltimore, the city where her cousin still has season tickets. Now, Stintz, a three-term municipal politician representing Eglinton-Lawrence, and chair of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), is about to kick off another exciting game in her life: a drive for Mayor of Toronto against predicted heavy weights, such as NDP MP Olivia Chow and incumbent Mayor Rob Ford.   

“This has been a journey,” she says from her office while reporters are camped out in the hallways hoping to speak with Mayor Ford. “And I thank Mayor Ford because he has provided me with the biggest political challenge of my career. Through it, I have learned a great deal about my colleagues, about myself, and about what I value about the city and why I think it is worth fighting for.”

Stintz is referring to the drawn out battle she endured with Ford over a multi-million dollar expansion of the TTC. He wanted underground while she wanted above ground. In the end, after a period where Stintz resigned as chair and then was re-appointed, her plan to add a line that will connect Toronto from end to end was approved. “It’s the right mode of transit for the neighbourhoods they are serving,” she says with confidence.

Now, Stintz admits she is ready for some bigger plays. She agrees that she has grown beyond her ward and wants to do more for the entire city. “I think it (mayor of Toronto) would be a great job,” she says. “I’ve had a great run. I think I need to make some decisions. People do grow out of their role and I am thinking of what the next step is for me.”

 “There’s room to improve how we deliver services in the city, make them more customerfriendly and more accessible to users. I think we need to invest more in transit, infrastructure and our parks.”

Her two children, Jackson, 9, and Hailey, 6, agree wholeheartedly when it comes to spending on parks. The family enjoys the improvements recently made to Lytton Park, including a playground. “My son was saying, ‘oh it’s such a great park, you should see what they are doing mom!’ And I said, ‘I know what they’re doing, sweetie, that’s my job!’ And then my husband said, ‘that’s what Mommy does. Mommy makes sure that the park gets rebuilt.’ My son looked at me, it was so cute, and it was the first time he understood why I go to work. I was so grateful that there was a bit of pride in there.”

“I was going to school at a time when we were debating free trade, GST, Quebec sovereignty. It was a very interesting time in our history which made me interested in politics.”

Clearly Stintz is proud to be a professional politician. It’s been a tough year as she watched top-level municipal mayors in Ontario and Quebec face legal charges and media bloodbaths, all of which she says discredits a role she would be proud to hold. “Everyone has flaws and I don’t think we should expect politicians to be flawless. But, I think that there is every reasonable expectation that they (mayors) will operate within the rules of personal conduct and financial responsibility. From a professional level it’s disappointing to see my profession discredited.”

Stintz says if she runs a campaign from January to October (2014) for mayor it will cost 1.6 million dollars. She muses that she’s come a long way from being a 17 year old in first year university at Western. She transferred to King’s after an “overwhelming” experience at main campus, finding the smaller classes and closer knit community at King’s a better fit for her personality. “People at King’s noticed if you didn’t come to class. It was a smaller campus, more connected to the professors and my classmates. I really enjoyed King’s.” She jokes that she was a shy teenager who didn’t participate in political clubs. “I was going to school at a time when we were debating free trade, GST, Quebec sovereignty. It was a very interesting time in our history which made me interested in politics.” From King’s Stintz went on to earn master’s degrees in both journalism and public administration.

Now, 20 years later, and still very much interested in politics, Stintz says her values are clear. “I am proud of what I do. I’m proud of my city. And, I think politics is important.” As a side note – she hopes to see her fellow alumni at Homecoming this fall to watch a little football with her family.