The three candidates in Toronto's mayoral race debated why cultural heritage matters during Thursday's debate after Karen Stintz dropped out of the election and Rob Ford chose to hold a fundraiser at his mother's house. 

Stintz, the long-time councillor for Ward 16, announced Thursday that she was withdrawing her candidacy and plans to exit municipal politics when the current term of council comes to an end.

Mayor Ford, who had originally said he would attend the debate, has decided to skip it in favour of the $300-a-table fundraiser.

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Karen Stintz said she's dropping out of the mayoral race for financial reasons. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Three candidates remained on the bill for the Heritage Matters debate, which started at 7 p.m. at The Cathedral Centre at 65 Church St. Former councillor and NDP MP Olivia Chow, businessman John Tory and ex-budget chief David Soknacki all answered questions about why heritage matters.

Organized by Heritage Toronto and the Toronto Historical Association, the debate focused on candidates’ plans surrounding the promotion and conservation of Toronto’s heritage architecture.

The candidates were asked about how to make heritage more relevant to young people and what cultural group's heritage they felt was most under-represented in Toronto.

There are 40 debates scheduled to be held over remaining two months until Toronto voters go to the polls on Oct. 27. In some cases, two debates are scheduled for the same day. 

Kinsella controversy

Thursday’s debate was the first since Olivia Chow faced questions about controversial comments sent out by a political strategist involved in her campaign.

"Is John Tory’s SmartTrack, you know, Segregationist Track?" wrote Warren Kinsella on Twitter, lambasting Tory’s planned 53-kilometre surface rail line.

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Warren Kinsella, a political strategist associated with Olivia Chow's campaign, has apologized for a tweet calling Tory's transit plans 'segregationist.'

With the tweet was a photo showing Tory in front of a map, with X's through the communities Kinsella is accusing Tory of excluding. Those areas have substantial black populations.

Kinsella has since apologized for the tweet and said he didn’t mean to suggest that Tory is racist.

During a news conference Wednesday, Chow deflected questions about Kinsella’s comments and said he’s only a "volunteer" for her campaign.

However, the Chow campaign pays Daisy Consulting — a firm for which Kinsella serves as president — for help with media monitoring.  

"Olivia Chow has to answer for this," Tory spokesman Amanda Galbraith said Wednesday. "Saying this is a volunteer is simply not acceptable."