By Hugh Smith
Now that the mayoral race is underway in Toronto, things are heating up at City Hall.
Or so it appeared that way on Monday, when Karen Stintz grilled Mayor Rob Ford on how he handled the ice storm that shook Toronto over city council’s holiday break.
Stintz challenged Ford on his decision not to contact Premier Kathleen Wynne for help, and Ford did not mince words in his reply.
“I was leading… through Andy Byford [who] got the TTC up and running,” said Ford. “With all due respect, Councillor Stintz, you were nowhere to be found also during the 10 days of the storm.”
Stintz did not back down. In reply, she questioned Ford’s motives in his failure to declare Toronto in a state of emergency.
“If you actually think it was important for one person to be in charge, you could have put the deputy mayor in charge by declaring a state of emergency,” said Stintz. “But you didn’t because you would rather have had that authority vested with you, is that correct?”
Ivor Tossell, a professor of journalism at Humber College’s Lakeshore campus, said that Toronto voters can expect more of these heated exchanges in the coming months.
“It certainly gave us a hint of the tone of the campaign that’s ahead of us,” said Tossell. “It was a very rancorous and very personal exchange.”
Tossell also said that while Stintz seemed to be trying to discredit the mayor, it may not be the best campaign tactic.
“There’s limited returns in trying to discredit Rob Ford,” said Tossell.
If you’re going to believe the things that the mayor says “you’re going to vote for him, and no amount of council floor arguing is going to change peoples’ minds about that,” he said.
The war of words between Stintz and Ford comes in the wake of a recent poll suggesting there is an increase in support for Toronto’s mayor, who has formally entered the race for the vote on Oct. 27.
A Forum Research Poll published by the Toronto Sun last week shows Ford’s approval rating rising to 47 per cent after the ice storm, a five per cent increase from the last poll conducted on Dec. 9.
The poll further suggested that in a hypothetical election match up between Ford and undeclared potential candidates Olivia Chow and John Tory, Ford would win with 35 per cent of the vote. Chow would get 30 per cent of the vote, Tory would sit at 22 per cent, while Soknacki and Stintz would both finish with under 10 per cent of the vote.
Tossell said that while the storm was a success for Ford in terms of public relations, he doesn’t expect the benefits to last long.
“These benefits tend to be short term,” he said. “I think you’ll see his approval ratings go back to the level they were originally.”
Twenty-three candidates have already registered to run for mayor, with more soon to come.