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Sparks fly at first public debate of Toronto's mayoralty race

TORONTO, Ont. – The top six candidates in Toronto’s mayoralty race squared off Monday night in the first of what will be dozens of public debates.

It was a three-hour long question and answer session at the Mary Ward Catholic School in Scarborough.

The six candidates — Rob Ford, Giorgio Mammoliti, Sarah Thomson, Joe Pantalone and the two front-runners Rocco Rossi and George Smitherman — weighed on the subjects of taxes, transit and the issue of selling city assets.

Smitherman threw the first real public punches of the campaign by first jabbing at Pantalone, and then turned on Rossi’s idea for development fees.

“The difference between you and me is that I have experience and a track record, and you have none,” Smitherman said to Rossi.

Smitherman also called for TTC chair Adam Giambrone to step down.

Rossi, of course, has been waiting for the first of many opportunities to tag Smitherman with the eHealth scandal — an issue that will dodge the former deputy premier throughout the campaign.

“Mr. Smitherman, how are you going to get rid of the debt? You certainly know how to spend money, you don’t know how to save it,” Rossi said.

Thomson promoted her road toll concept to pay for the subway expansion.

Ford said he would make the TTC an essential service, while Mammoliti said he would try to upload the TTC back to the province.

The candidates also answered questions asked by students at the high school.

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