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Eglinton rail project brings rivals together

‘Save Transit City’

By Natalie Alcoba

It wasn’t too long ago that the idea of David Miller and Karen Stintz campaigning together would have sounded just crazy. But in the battle to pressure the provincial government to reinstate full transit funding for a light rail network, the-once formidable adversaries are on the same side.

Mayor Miller and Councillor Stintz (Eglinton-Lawrence) spent almost an hour by the main turnstiles at Eglinton Station, handing out brochures for a “Save Transit City” campaign that the Mayor is fiercely pushing.

They looked relaxed in each other’s orbit, crouching for a picture with a sleeping baby together, making sure to point the other one out to everyone who stopped for a chat.

“Did you meet Councillor Stintz? She’s the local councillor here,” Mr. Miller told a group of teenagers. A woman confided she was “star-struck” when Ms. Stintz pointed the Mayor out.

Last month, the McGuinty government announced it was “delaying” $4-billion out of more than $9-billion for transit expansion in the GTA. It insists it will build the LRT lines, including the Eglinton Crosstown that traverses the entire city, but the Mayor — who has staked much of his legacy on the LRT plan called Transit City — maintains that any delay puts the routes at risk.

A $43,000 campaign (the cost divided between the Mayor’s office, the city and the TTC) attempts to drive the message home with posters, buttons and flyers encouraging people to voice their protest with the provincial government.

Did the Mayor and Ms. Stintz ever think they would be campaigning alongside one another?

“I think we can both say that transit crosses any partisan lines, and on this I fully support Mayor Miller and his initiative and I’m proud to stand here beside him and get the message out,” said Ms. Stintz.

Flashing a broad grin, and putting his arm around her, the mayor added: “I always knew there would be something.”

He added: “I thought it was important to send the message that City Council is united on this, and that we all need rapid transit in our neighbourhoods.”

To be sure, the waters between the Mayor and the midtown councillor, who famously unseated his ally, Anne Johnston, in 2003, have warmed. In 2006, hers was the only ward in which Mr. Miller publicly supported a candidate — and it was her opponent. Ms. Stintz, a fiscal conservative who has been a loud critic of the Mayor’s, has since tempered her tone, and earlier this month he supported her motion on the controversial redevelopment of a Yonge and Eglinton square.

Ms. Stintz calls the Eglinton Crosstown “critical” to the mobility of residents living in her ward, and beyond. “There’s no question that the residents in this community believe it needs to get built and it needs to be built on schedule.”

The Mayor says he is optimistic the province can be convinced to reverse its decision. A look at the numbers, he says, suggests it would cost more to buy more buses to service routes that would have been serviced by a new LRT, than to keep Transit City on its original schedule.

To the public, his message was simple: “If you want to save the Eglinton line, make sure we have rapid transit, call the Premier,” he called out to commuters.

“I love campaigning,” the Mayor said. “I just love it.”