Thirty minutes into the 45th debate of Toronto's race for mayor, front-runner John Tory squared off against rival Doug Ford, who until the most recent opinion poll had been nipping at his heels since he stepped into the race as a last-minute substitute for his brother Rob Ford.
It was an attempt by both men to frame the image of their main opponent.
"You come from the Rosedale golf course. You don't relate to the people of Jane and Finch," Doug Ford said, answering a question about bringing jobs to the city's impoverished neighbourhoods.
"You will never be the mayor because you're Doug the Divider," Mr. Tory shot back.
With just 10 days before voters go to the polls on Oct. 27, both Mr. Ford and Mr. Tory are spending considerable energy building an unflattering image of their rival amid the talk of transit, housing and jobs.
A new poll released by Forum on Thursday had Mr. Tory as the choice of 39 per cent of those polled, Mr. Ford slipping down to 33 and Olivia Chow at 23.
Mr. Ford wants to cast Mr. Tory as a privileged member of the elite, a member of an exclusive club since he was a teenager.
Mr. Tory – who gets high marks in opinion polls as someone who can unite the city – is casting Mr. Ford as someone who will pit neighbourhood against neighbourhood and drive people apart.
"It's all about dividing people … very disappointing," Mr. Tory said later at the Thursday evening debate hosted by CBC.
"You come from a whole different world than the rest of us," Mr. Ford retorted.
The audience was warned in advance that if members failed to act with "respect and decorum," that organizers had "a plan in place to handle it."
Asked later about his membership in the exclusive club and whether the negative image Mr. Ford is trying to paint would resonate with voters, Mr. Tory said people know better. "I think it is U.S. Tea Party-style politics. I don't think people like it and I think it will do nothing to move this city forward as we must do."
Ms. Chow, trying to close the gap with her two rivals, said the debate left her struggling "to get a word in edgewise."
"They were debating golf courses, golf clubs. It was unbearable," she told reporters.