Neither Tory or Ford taking part in transit debate

Doug Ford won't be taking part in the debate on public transit Monday.
Doug Ford won't be taking part in the debate on public transit Monday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

TORONTO – Neither Doug Ford or John Tory will be taking part in Monday’s debate on the future of public transit in Toronto.

Ford will be focusing on his family – Rob Ford was recently admitted to hospital for a tumour in his abdomen – rather than taking part in the debate.

Tory was scheduled to be there but his campaign said two hours before the debate the mayoral candidate simply didnt’t have time.

“John has extraordinary demands on his time and, unfortunately, we are unable to accommodate every event and request,” his campaign said in an email statement.

Monday night’s debate is being hosted jointly by TTCriders, an advocacy group representing transit users in Toronto, and the Ryerson Students’ Union in the Engineering building at Ryerson University.

Jessica Bell, executive director of the TTCriders organization, said she was “furious.”

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“John Tory cancelled at the last minute. We spent hundreds of volunteers organizing this event and he cancelled at the last minute. It’s so disrespectful,” she said in an interview Monday. “He can’t even be bothered to show up and explain his platform to students and voters.”

The debate is still going on but will only feature Olivia Chow who will be answering questions regarding transit.

“It’s clear John Tory can’t compete with Olivia’s knowledge or her transit plan,” Jamey Heath, Chow’s communications director said in a statement. “It’s no wonder why he ran away. I’d run away too if I had to pass back-of-the-napkin silliness off as a real plan, up against someone who knows far more.”

Doug Ford filed his campaign papers Friday after Rob Ford announced he’d be running for his old council seat in Ward 2 rather than seeking re-election as mayor due to a tumour in his abdomen.

“We want to build on the progress that Rob has made,” Ford said at a Friday evening press conference in front of his mother’s Etobicoke home. “And so, folks, I have officially entered this campaign.”

WATCH: Toronto mayoral candidate John Tory had some harsh words for Doug Ford moments after he received an endorsement from councillor Jaye Robinson.

Transit is at the top of mind among voters in Toronto according to a July poll by Nanos Research, which saw 34.8 per cent of voters saying public transit was the “most important issue” facing Toronto.

Tory and Chow have released their transit platforms – Tory wants to build an above-ground east-west train across Toronto, while Chow wants to immediately increase bus service in the city.

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While Doug Ford hasn’t officially released a platform yet, he was the mayor’s campaign manager and has long been an advocate for more subways in the city.