Doug Ford on minds of Olivia Chow, John Tory

Even before a mayoral debate got underway on Sunday, Olivia Chow and John Tory were facing questions about how they will respond to Doug Ford's last-minute entry to the mayoral race.

Doug Ford did not attend a debate at Toronto’s Evergreen Brick Works on Sunday

Despite Doug Ford's absence, the Ford factor was not forgotten at Sunday's debate between John Tory and Olivia Chow 3:07

Doug Ford has yet to begin campaigning, but his two most high-profile rivals are already facing questions about how they intend to handle his unexpected presence in the mayoral race.

Ford announced Friday that he would run for mayor, as his brother will not be able to do so. Ahead of that dramatic announcement, the rookie councillor had said that he would not be seeking re-election.

On Sunday, Ford spoke briefly to reporters outside Mount Sinai Hospital, where his brother is being treated. Asked if his platform will differ from the one his brother presented over the past few months, Ford said the public will have to "stay tuned."

Ford didn't attend a debate at Toronto’s Evergreen Brick Works on Sunday, which Olivia Chow and John Tory did.

Toronto mayoral candidate John Tory says it's time to bring 'the Ford era to an end.' (CBC)

And yet before the debate even got started, both Chow and Tory were asked questions about how they would be responding to Ford's last-minute entry into the mayoral race.

Tory said he would continue to push forward with "a positive message" that is rooted in working with others to make things happen for the city, but he'll also be highlighting "the importance of bringing the Ford era to an end."

Chow linked Ford and Tory in terms of policy — saying that Ford has a "terrible" voting record on council when it comes to transit and social programs, while Tory has put forward transit ideas that are leaving people behind.

Olivia Chow says that she offers a clear alternative to both Doug Ford and John Tory. (CBC)

"To those that are thinking about voting for Doug Ford or Mr. Tory, I need to tell them that I am a clear alternative, that I will not leave people behind," Chow said, reiterating the argument she also raised the day before.

Chow said with "the drama" surrounding the Fords, voters are now considering who "can help rebuild this city after four years of Ford brothers."

The Oct. 27 election is six weeks from Monday.