Thursday night’s mayoral debate was a three-way discussion between candidates John Tory, Olivia Chow and David Soknacki, following an announcement earlier in the day by Karen Stintz saying she was pulling out of the race.
Stintz, who has been trailing in polls with about four per cent support, announced Thursday morning that she is bowing out because lack of support has affected her financial ability to continue campaigning.
Rob Ford had said previously that he would not attend the event as it conflicted with a $300 per head campaign fundraiser he hosted at his mother’s home in Etobicoke.
The candidates were asked eight questions – provided ahead of the debate – on topics including the role of the Ontario Municipal Board in Toronto’s planning, heritage preservation and the creation of a City of Toronto Museum.
Long-shot mayoral candidates Ari Goldkind and Sarah Thomson had both requested Heritage Toronto to permit them to participate in the debate in the absence of Ford and Stintz.
However, Heritage Toronto, a charitable organization that works with the city to preserve historic architecture, denied the requests saying that it would not be appropriate for candidates to drop in at the last minute without researching beforehand.
“Our process is quite intensive. We had to send questions before to the candidates who were going to be involved,” said Karen Carter, Heritage Toronto’s executive director. “It wouldn’t have been something that someone can just drop in without having the chance to essentially research and prepare a proper platform.”
Goldkind told CP24 that he “doesn’t need a script,” and Thomson’s campaign said she is “ready to debate tonight” as she participated in the heritage debate during the last mayoral race in 2010.
The debate follows on the heels of a spat between Chow and Tory yesterday after a volunteer in Chow’s campaign office sent out a tweet accusing Tory’s Smart Track transit plan of being “segregationist” and intentionally excluding the Jane-Finch and Rexdale neighbourhoods.
The volunteer, Warren Kinsella, apologized, but Tory wasn’t satisfied. He called Kinsella a “key political operative” in Chow’s campaign and that Chow must accept accountability.
Speaking outside city hall Thursday morning, Chow said Kinsella did not speak on behalf of the campaign and the last time she spoke with him was several months ago.
“That tweet shouldn’t have happened. I don’t believe Mr. Tory discriminated at all,” said Chow. “You know my track record of bringing people together on issues of race and that is something I passionately believe. I am glad that Warren Kinsella retracted that and apologized and that tweet was just uncalled for.”