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The Globe and Mail

Will anyone in TV debate take on Rob Ford about his behaviour?

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has long said he can hardly wait to face his opponents in a debate.

Chris Young/The Canadian Press

  • The debate is sponsored by CityNews and video will be live-streamed on Globe reporters will also live-tweet the event.

The race to be mayor of Toronto shifts gears tonight, when the five main contenders for the job face off for the first time in a televised debate.

Mayor Rob Ford, former NDP MP Olivia Chow, former provincial Progressive Conservative leader John Tory, Councillor Karen Stintz and former councillor David Soknacki will take part in the two-hour event beginning at 5 p.m.

As the five contenders meet for the first time, the big question will be who, if anyone, will take on Mr. Ford and the mounting allegations about his personal behaviour. For the past week, the mayor has refused to answer questions in relation to recently released police documents that include a description of a video allegedly showing him smoking crack cocaine, which was taken just before 8 p.m. on the Sunday of the Family Day weekend last year.

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Documents released this week also reveal that the police are searching the contents of a cellphone belonging to Alessandro Lisi, a friend of Mr. Ford who is facing charges of extortion in connection with the video. Police are looking for evidence of extortion in audio and video files on the phone and whether others were involved in the alleged efforts to retrieve a video of the mayor.

But the mayor's campaign manager and brother, Councillor Doug Ford, said he is not worried. "They want to get personal, like they have, that's their choice. But I think the public sees right through that," he told reporters at City Hall on Wednesday afternoon.

Instead, Councillor Ford said his brother will focus on fiscal responsibility and his track record during the debate. "They want to hear about what a candidate's going to do in the future and what they've done in the past. Rob has a proven track record, and I don't think any of them have a track record," he said.

Asked how he has been preparing his brother for the debate, Councillor Ford joked: "He's been ready for 14 years."

Mr. Ford has long said he can hardly wait to face his opponents, and at City Hall Tuesday he repeated that claim. "I'm ready. I'm ready," he said on a day when he continued to refuse to take questions on the police documents or what the police might find on Mr. Lisi's cellphone. He also refused to take questions on Wednesday from reporters at City Hall, including questions about his debate preparation.

On Wednesday, Mr. Tory said in an interview on CBC Radio that the mayor's personal difficulties have contributed to an inability to get things done at City Hall.

Ms. Chow also has made reference to Mr. Ford's personal difficulties, repeatedly saying he is not a role model for her granddaughters.

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