Three of the top mayoral candidates squared off at a debate hosted by Heritage Toronto on Thursday evening.

Olivia Chow, John Tory, and David Soknacki participated in the Heritage Matters debate, addressing the conservation and promotion of heritage in the city.

Rob Ford skipped the debate to host a $300-a-plate fundraiser at his mother’s home in Etobicoke. Karen Stintz didn’t attend as she announced earlier Thursday that she was dropping out of the mayoral race.

In her opening remarks, Chow said that “heritage protection is central to who I am,” adding that as a city councillor she worked hard to protect heritage buildings in Toronto and pledged to keep heritage central to planning in the mayor’s office if elected.

Tory said that heritage was “vitally important to the city’s future” while Soknacki said that as chairman of Downsview Park he was involved in the adaptive reuse of buildings there. “I think the overwhelming answer [to] ‘Does heritage matter?’ It does,” Soknacki said.

The debate comes one day after Tory and Chow’s campaigns traded barbs over a controversial tweet sent out by Warren Kinsella.

Kinsella criticized Tory’s transit plan, SmartTrack, saying it excluded most of Rexdale, a neighbourhood with high minority population.

“Is John Tory’s Smart Track, you know, Segregationist Track?” he tweeted.

Kinsella is a well-known political consultant in Toronto, and the Chow campaign uses his company to monitor media reports.

Chow was asked about the tweets during her transit announcement on Wednesday.

“Number one, I was very clear that I do not believe Mr. Tory discriminates,” she said. “Number two, my campaign did not say so, and number three, Mr. Kinsella has apologized and retracted it.”

Thursday’s mayoral debate occurred at The Cathedral Centre at St. James Cathedral, located at 65 Church St.

There are still more than 30 debates scheduled before Toronto goes to the polls on Oct. 27.

Map of upcoming mayoral debates: