Doug Ford pulls out of $800-a-table debate ahead of $2500-a-table fundraiser

WATCH ABOVE: Ford calls $800 debate “exclusive” days ahead of a $2500 fundraiser. John Tory calls him a “chicken.” Mark McAllister reports.

TORONTO – Doug Ford pulled out of The Empire Club of Canada mayoral debate just 20 minutes before it began on Friday, claiming its $800-a-table ($80 per person) cost is too exclusive.

But Ford is scheduled to appear at a fundraiser for himself on Monday, September 29 that costs more than four times as much.

The event was expected to feature all three of the mayoral campaign’s frontrunners – Ford, Olivia Chow and John Tory.

WATCH: Toronto mayoral candidate John Tory suggested Friday that KFC’s Colonel Sanders should be looking for opponent Doug Ford – because he’s a scared “chicken”.

“Debates should be open events that any member of the public can attend and ask questions,” reads a statement from the Ford campaign, released at approximately 12:15 p.m. Friday.

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“How many average, hardworking people can afford to take three hours away from work to come downtown and spend almost $100 having lunch?”

Global News has learned Doug is scheduled to appear at a lunch fundraiser at the Posticino Ristorante in Etobicoke on September 29 for $750 a person and $2,500 a table.

WATCH: Doug Ford says Friday’s debate was too “exclusive”

Ford dismissed the apparent contradiction and said the Friday debate was “exclusive” rather than “inclusive.”

“I’m not going to go to an establishment that’s exclusive, that’s only for the Bay Street elites, and the special interests, and all the lobbyists that surround John Tory. I’m here for the common folk,” he said.

A screenshot of the invite to a Doug Ford fundraiser obtained by Global News.

Tory blasted Ford for abandoning the debate, pointing out Ford skipped a free debate Thursday night and isn’t scheduled to attend another free debate on Friday.

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“This is a person who is dismissive, combative and thinks he’s entitled to everything,” Tory told reporters outside of the Empire Club of Canada Friday. “But I think again, there a pattern of behaviour here: don’t show up for the council votes, don’t show up for the board meetings, don’t show up to the debate.”

Ford has one of the worst attendance records on this term of council.

Ford attended his first debate on Tuesday and faced a barrage of questions about his subway expansion plan, working with city councillors, and his attendance (or not) at the annual Pride parade.

The event was also interrupted for nearly half an hour as police removed a pro-Ford heckler from the premises.

Tory, who is considered the frontrunner, announced this week he would be reviewing debates on a case-by-case basis after dropping out of the Ryerson debate shortly before it started last week.

Chow, who has been polling in a distant third place, accused Tory of  “hiding” from her.


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