Councillor Stintz wants you to apologize

Councillor Stintz wants you to apologize

Karen Stintz is among the most effective performers in the political theatre of city council. She is smart and quick witted. She is a forceful orator with a vocal intonation and timbre that resonate clearly in the chamber, as opposed to the monotone, adenoidal blubberings of so many others men and women on council. She is a deft communicator, able to quickly define an issue, ask pointed questions and back her opponents into a rhetorical corner. And she is really, really good at appearing and sounding really, really insulted.

In two days of council meetings this week, she demanded an apology per day. On Wednesday, when her turn came for her five-minute toe-to-toe with Mayor David Miller, she did her best to shame him for suggesting, back in July, that opposition councillors were to blame for the recent budget cuts. She wanted either a retraction or an apology for anyone whose reputation the mayor had impugned. Miller refused.

On Thursday, Councillor Adam Vaughan rose on a point of privilege to get a few parting shots in at Willowdale councillor and PC provincial election candidate David Shiner, who had just announced he was taking a leave of absence from council. Stintz gave Vaughan a tongue-lashing: “Councillor Shiner may be doing things we do not agree with, but he is not doing anything that contravenes our bylaws.” It was a salient point, and she forced Speaker Sandra Bussin to shut Vaughan down. Then she demanded an apology on Shiner’s behalf. Vaughan refused.

Stintz is running the Clamshell Daycare. David! Apologize to your classmates! Adam! Apologize to Mr. Shiner! It’s hard to know if it’s an act of if she really is insulted, even if only vicariously (ie. she feels Shiner’s pain). Genuine or not, the fact is that demanding an apology is a standard trick in every opposition playbook, like a pick-and-roll in basketball or a screen pass in football. But you have to know how to play it: if you don’t pick your spots, you won’t be taken seriously. Above all, you can’t be insulted on other people’s behalf. It’s one thing to call out Vaughan on his bullshit; it’s quite another to seek redress for emotional injury to Shiner. Other members of council don’t need Stintz to do that for them. They are nobody’s babies.

The real shame here lies with Stintz. She is a better, more nimble and rational thinker than many of her colleagues, and she should show off those skills instead. The next time she demands an apology, she needs to be the object of the insult, and she can’t let it drop at the end of the council meeting. When you declare yourself insulted you declare yourself wounded, you carry your wound outside the chamber and into the scrum, and you keep demanding your apology until you get it. It was a clever move for Stintz to put an end to Vaughan’s game (though he professes his independence, he’s acting awful partisan these days), but by demanding an apology, she allowed Vaughan to laugh her off. You could hear the derision in his voice, as if to say: Who are you, my mother? Get lost.