Despite his absence, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was still the focus of a major mayoral debate, where his rival candidates spent much of their time attacking his record.
Four of the leading contenders squared off in twin debates Wednesday – first at TFS (Toronto French School) in the afternoon, and later at Humber College in Etobicoke. Noticeably absent at both was Mr. Ford, who is on a temporary leave at a rehab facility in Muskoka.
Olivia Chow took the first shot at Mr. Ford at the evening debate, saying she has the best chance of beating the mayor in the October election.
“He’s coming back,” Ms. Chow said. “Rob Ford: More of the same? I don’t think so. We don’t need Rob Ford as mayor, and we don’t need Rob Ford’s failed policies either.”
Ms. Chow also touted her transit plan – most notably, to build above-ground rail in Scarborough, rather than the proposed subway extension – and came out strongly against a proposal to increase and reverse the flow of the Line 9 oil pipeline going through the city.
John Tory also criticized the mayor, saying he has been bad for the city’s image. “I think it’s all about showing respect for the office you hold, showing respect for the citizens of Toronto, and showing respect for the law,” Mr. Tory said.
“I’ll probably, frankly, be judged too boring to be on the Jimmy Kimmel show,” he said. “That’s okay.”
And while Karen Stintz praised Mr. Ford’s policies for the first two years of his mayoralty, she said things “fell off the rails a bit.”
In particular, she attacked Mr. Ford’s record at Toronto Community Housing, which was recently the subject of a scathing report by the city’s ombudsman.
“Instead of fixing it [TCHC], he walked the halls,” she said. “You need a mayor who can actually fix things.”
David Soknacki, meanwhile, avoided taking direct jabs at the mayor, saying simply, “I’m the candidate who gets it, and I’m the one who gets it done.”
At the earlier debate before a student audience, transit and gridlock dominated the conversation.
After the debate, Mr. Tory said the multiple debates give candidates a chance to gain profile.
“If you have a bad day on Monday, you can have a better day on Tuesday, and an even better day on the second one on Wednesday,” he said.