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Tory grills Ford for associating with 'gang-types' at Ryerson debate

A day after the first televised debate of the 2014 mayoral election at the City studio four of the top candidates were back at it again, and this time there was no skirting around Mayor Ford’s slew of scandals.

Ford, Karen Stintz, David Soknacki and John Tory clashed at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University. Olivia Chow didn’t take part due to a scheduling conflict.

Ford’s opponents were criticized for their collective meekness in Wednesday night’s debate, alluding to, but not mentioning many of the mayor’s ongoing issues.

Candidate John Tory ended that in his opening remarks Thursday, criticizing the mayor for his alleged ties to criminal elements.

“We simply can’t go on the way things are going,” Tory began. “…it’s not acceptable to see the spectacle of a mayor who refuses to answer questions from citizens and the media. And most troubling and unacceptable of all – a mayor who has eventually admitted multiple and continuing relationships with convicted criminals and gang-types, the very people he has pledged to keep off our streets.”

“Mr. Ford no longer shows any respect for the precious public office that he holds.”

Ford took to the microphone next and sarcastically, “thanked John for his kind words,” before touting his familiar list of accomplishments.

“I said I was going to get rid of the car tax and I did,” Ford said. “I said I was going privatize garbage, I did. I said we were not going to have any labour disruptions in the city (and we haven’t). I said I was going to build a Scarborough subway, and we are..”

Soknacki took issue with Ford’s criticism of his tenure as former mayor David Miller’s budget chief.

“For people to say that we had a disaster when we in fact were creating and building a city, is simply not true. I’m proud of those budgets and I’m proud of the services.”

Stintz kicked things off by saying: “This is not a referendum on Rob Ford, this is about our city and you are our city.”

The candidates then began fielding questions from the business and law students that made up the majority of the audience.

One young woman asked Ford why he continues to act in a manner that attracts negative attention – citing the recent video that showed Ford swearing and appearing “to act intoxicated” in front of city hall.

“I appreciate that question,” Ford responded. “But you know what, I’m not perfect.”

The audience erupted in laughter at Ford’s familiar refrain.

“I’m running because I have a proven track record of success,” he added before abandoning his answer after becoming flustered by hecklers.

The debate’s moderator, Ryerson teacher Ralph Lean, asked Ford why he hangs out with drug dealers.

“I don’t condone drug dealers, I don’t condone crack cocaine, I don’t condone that stuff…I condone being the best mayor this city has ever had.”

That sparked more shouting from the young crowd.

“I’m used to this,” Ford said smiling. “This is exactly like city council, you can heckle me all you want.”