Rob Ford

Rob Ford offers his rivals a lesson in campaigning at Wednesday's mayoral debate

"Nobody can comprehend when you talk about hundreds of millions and billions of dollars...You've got to speak in layman's terms," Rob Ford lectured his fellow candidates at Wednesday's finance, transportation, and governance debate at York University hosted by The Agenda's Steve Paikin.

The comment was a reaction to his opponents' attacks, which said finding small savings in councillors' office budgets will not solve the city's financial problems.

Inadvertently, he might have given away the secret to his campaign's success. His platform, always presented in "layman's terms," continued to be the message with the most punch among the candidates.

Ford delivered his lines visibly sombre and reflective, mentioning in his opening statement that it was the four year anniversary of his father's death (which might explain why his talking points were more sophisticated than normal).

"You've got to lead by example," he said in reference to cutting councillors' office budgets. "Yes it's minor in the grand scheme of things but it's symbolic...Let's start with the little things, then we can start tackling the big issues. My father always taught me: 'Son, you watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.'"

Ford also laid out his spending priorities: fixing roads, making the city more accessible to people with disabilities ("We're not even talking about that," he said), and lowering the commercial tax rate.

But as hard as they tried, Ford's opponents failed to make any dents in his campaign.

"All of the examples of waste Mr. Ford used...would have built about a kilometre of subway...His numbers don't add up to what needs to happen," Rocco Rossi said.

"This is a man who's been on the outside looking in, usually one vote to forty," George Smitherman said about Ford. "What we need to do is create a consensus at City Hall."

Such points, however, are likely to fall on deaf ears as Ford continues his rise in the polls. They are the same attacks that have so far proved ineffective in stopping the front-runner's surging popularity.

Here are a few other highlights in what was again a fairly predictable debate:

  • Paikin had to regularly cut off Rossi, who couldn't finish his statements within the allotted time.
  • Sarah Thomson put on an impressive performance and appeared very confident. She blasted Ford for not addressing questions directly.
  • Joe Pantalone proudly declared "debt is normal" during a discussion about the city's finances.

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