The fireworks before Monday’s mayoral debate even started are trumping the issues actually discussed.

Each candidate was only allowed to bring one person inside the debate venue. When Mayor Rob Ford arrived with his press secretary, driver and his brother Coun. Doug Ford — who is also the mayor’s campaign manager — they were told two members of the group couldn’t enter the venue. Eventually, all were allowed in. But that wasn’t the only conflict at the door.

Coun. Ford accused the group hosting the event of bias since the president of the Parkview Hills Community Association does publicly support mayoral candidate John Tory. However the organization’s president did not not moderate the debate or ask questions.

Monday’s debate featured the mayor, Tory, Olivia Chow, David Soknacki and Karen Stinz.

During the actual debate, transit was once again a hot issue for the candidates, causing Tory and Chow to butt heads on the issue of subways.

“John you flip-flopped on what you used to say was your top priority and you’ve dropped the subway relief line,” she said. “So why not flip-flop again? Why not drop Mr. Ford’s Scarborough subway and join me in supporting the current above ground plan and save citizens a billion dollars. And some of that money can go towards the subway relief lines.”

Tory, who has repeatedly promoted his SmartTrack plan, replied that he would not undo the “historic and unique” agreement made on transit with the three levels of government.

“I will not go down to City Hall, as you will, and reopen that debate and do what we do so often in this city, which is have debates over and over again and undo decisions we already did,” said Tory. “I want to get on with it.”

Residents were able to submit questions to the candidates.

Many questions were aimed squarely at Rob Ford, including one on if he would be willing to step aside and back another candidate.

“We know the polls. Stanley Cup winners don’t hand back the Stanley Cup. We’re in first place. Our team is on top,” said Ford. “The only person that anyone can trust with their hard earned tax dollars is Rob Ford.”

Other topics covered during the debate included youth unemployment and road maintenance.

The debate came on the heels of the annual Ford Fest barbeque in Scarborough on Friday night, which was marked by tensions between Ford supporters and protesters from the LBGTQ community.

In an interview with a Toronto television station, Ford apologized for the skirmishes.

“It’s terrible things like that happen … I apologize and we have to move on,” he said.

According to the latest Forum Research poll, conducted on July 21, Ford, Tory and Chow are in a dead heat for the city’s top job.

Tuesday’s debate was hosted by the Parkview Hills Community Association at the Presteign-Woodbine United Church on St. Clair Avenue East.

There are still more than 40 debates scheduled before Toronto goes to the polls on October 27.

Map of upcoming mayoral debates: