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Mayoral candidates Olivia Chow and John Tory square off in a debate hosted by the Ontario Home Builders Association in Toronto, Ontario, Friday, September 12, 2014.Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

One week after Mayor Rob Ford announced he had a tumour, leading to his dramatic withdrawal from the election race, his former rivals are continually having to adapt as his medical status dominates the headlines.

John Tory and Olivia Chow offered their support and pledged to continue a campaign of "ideas" and "policies" after Mr. Ford's lead doctor announced Wednesday that the mayor was suffering from a rare type of cancer.

The illness of Mr. Ford, whose brother Doug has entered the race in his place, puts the Chow and Tory campaigns in awkward positions. They have to criticize Mr. Ford's mayoral record without seeming to beat up on a cancer patient. And they have to campaign carefully against Doug Ford, who has been taking time with his brother instead of hitting the hustings.

In a brief statement after his brother's cancer diagnosis was revealed, Doug Ford spoke of how this has been "devastating" for the family. He did not mention the political race but offered thanks for the "kind words and well wishes" of supporters. He had earlier pledged to begin campaigning seriously after he was able to "get over this little hump" with his brother.

It was not clear how much longer that would be. On Wednesday his campaign launched a bare-bones website and signed up for Twitter. Doug Ford still has not taken part in any debates, though, including one at the National Club Wednesday. Another debate scheduled for Wednesday night was cancelled out of sensitivity to the mayor's medical condition.

"In terms of tomorrow, I think we will continue," said Ms. Chow, wearing yellow as a "colour of hope."

"But let's remember, we're talking about policies, not individuals. It's very, very important to focus on why the city [needs] a new direction and not really necessary to talk about the Ford family … either Doug or Rob."

Mr. Tory said that the campaign would move forward "in earnest … whenever it seems appropriate for that to happen," without being more specific.

In remarks to reporters earlier, Mr. Tory suggested that a pause would have been more difficult late in the race, but that there was still plenty of time for the campaign to resume. He was scheduled to speak Thursday to the Toronto Region Board of Trade and his campaign confirmed Wednesday night that his speech would go ahead.

Mr. Tory also said there was no reason to believe that Rob Ford couldn't make a full recovery and serve again as city councillor in Ward 2, a race he entered after leaving the campaign for mayor.

"I have no worries that, because he's having cancer, that that's going to in some way impair his ability to be a candidate," he said. "Or, for that matter, in particular, to be a member of city council."

Both the Chow and Tory camps say Rob Ford's replacement by his brother would benefit their campaigns.

Without Doug Ford's presence, Ms. Chow and Mr. Tory have gone head-to-head in a series of events. Ms. Chow's campaign, trying to close the 12- or 14-point lead held by Mr. Tory, says the longer that continues, the better.

"The more Olivia debates Mr. Tory, the clearer it is who knows what they are talking about, who knows how the city works and who should be mayor," says her spokesman Jamey Heath.

Ms. Chow, who often struggled to be heard above the sparring of Mr. Tory and the mayor, no longer has to fight for attention – at least until Doug Ford's campaign begins.

Mr. Tory chose to skip three debates this week, saying Monday in a statement that the campaign had entered a "new phase," with Doug Ford in the race and the election drawing closer.

Mr. Tory said Wednesday he does not believe the mayor's illness will change the tone of the campaign. "I mean there are important issues to discuss, and we have to discuss them," he told reporters.

Early opinion polls suggest the mayor's support with voters will transfer to his brother.

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