Housing, transit, sidewalk repair and even uranium processing were among the topics discussed Wednesday night as the top four candidates to be Toronto's next mayor gathered for a debate in Corso Italia.
The 90-minute gathering broke the pattern of recent debates by including fourth-place contender Ari Goldkind and by having audience members pose questions directly to the candidates.
The questions covered an unpredictable range of issues, appearing at times to puzzle the candidates.
Olivia Chow came down hard on one man in particular when he prefaced a question about her qualifications with remarks about her personal history as an immigrant.
"It has nothing to do with whether I'm a Canadian or not," Chow nearly shouted to a standing ovation, marking the only heated moment in the otherwise calm debate. "I'm a Canadian. I'm a proud Torontonian."
Goldkind, a self-described former "fringe" candidate, joked about being a relative unknown while stressing the need to spend, and raise, money on services including those for children, seniors and the disabled.
"I'm a big believer in government," he told the crowd at the Joseph J. Piccininni community centre. "We need to make sure we're doing what government is supposed to do — take care of people."
Goldkind also called "hogwash" on Doug Ford at one point, challenging the city councillor's frequent claim that he and his brother, Mayor Rob Ford, are big supporters of various disadvantaged groups.
Ford, meanwhile, continued to stress his experience at city hall, while criticizing the lack of same in front-runner John Tory.
Rob Ford, who is undergoing chemotherapy treatment, appeared briefly at the debate. He sat in the front row for a few minutes before leaving, complaining of the heat inside the auditorium.
"I'm not feeling very well right now cause of the — it's just — so I'd rather just go home, I might be pushing it a little bit tonight. A little too warm and it's just not getting air into my lungs," Mayor Ford told reporters as he left.