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Final TV debate of the mayor’s race features even more shouting than normal

Last night, the three front-running candidates for the mayor’s office—Rob Ford, George Smitherman and Joe Pantalone—sat down at the Masonic Temple for their final debate before Monday’s election. At this point, both Smitherman and Ford are clearly hoping for a knockout that would end the stalemate in the polls and shove one of them clearly into the lead. Did either of them get their wish?

It’s unclear whether Ford has that many more votes to win with an argument over the E-Health scandal, which seems to be what he emphasized last night according to the Toronto Star:

The two have parried on the topic many times, but Ford made a new bid in this important debate, asking Smitherman if he gave an untendered $10 million contract to his former chief of staff who was working for the Courtyard Group, an international consultancy firm based in Toronto.

Smitherman answered, “I have said there were untendered contracts . . . a company may have a variety of employees,” to a chorus of groans from the audience and cries of “You cannot be trusted” from Ford.

However, when Ford pressed him again if he issued the contract, Smitherman flatly denied it, saying “I issued none of those” untendered contracts.

Smitherman fended off a combined assault from both Ford and Pantalone through the night, once making a regrettable crack about Pantalone’s height in the process (“It’s too bad your legs aren’t longer,” he said to Pantalone, “or you [and Ford] could play footsie.”)  That probably didn’t help achieve Smitherman’s bigger goal for the evening, which was to convince reluctant Pantalone supporters to vote for the former deputy premier instead of the deputy mayor.

Maybe we’ve just watched too many of these debates at this point, but it’s hard to imagine anyone being swayed by them anymore. Did the apparent coziness between Ford and Pantalone help Smitherman make his pitch? Did Ford’s attacks about E-Health contracts help him? And can Pantalone triple or quadruple his vote in the three business days that are left before voting? No, no and no, in our estimation. Sparks may have flown last night, but no fires broke out.

• Smitherman fends off attacks in final debate [Toronto Star]Toronto mayoral debate: The last three main candidates [Globe and Mail]Mayoral hopefuls drop the gloves [Globe and Mail]Final mayoral debate gets heated [Toronto Sun]Sparks fly in final television debate [National Post]

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