09/15/2014 11:32 EDT | Updated 11/15/2014 05:59 EST

Olivia Chow says John Tory has 'no municipal experience'

Olivia Chow and John Tory could have faced off twice within two hours on Monday, but they only ended up on the debating floor together once.

That's because Tory decided not to attend an earlier transit debate, which was turned into a question-and-answer question with Chow, as a result.

Tory's campaign issued a statement saying that he had already attended 22 debates so far, and was going to take part in more in the weeks to come.

"With Doug Ford entering the race and less to six weeks to go until election day, we have entered a new phase of the campaign. John has extraordinary demands on his time and, unfortunately, we are unable to accommodate every event and request," the statement said.

Chow suggested Tory had abandoned the debate because he was "afraid" to face questions about his transit plan at the debate hosted by the Ryerson Students’ Union and the advocacy group TTCriders.

"If he's afraid to be in front of TTCriders, why should he be the mayor? There's no excuse," she said.

But Chow got her chance to go one-on-one with Tory later Monday, during a debate held downtown at St. Andrew's Church and which featured exchanges on property taxes and transit.

The two high-profile contenders traded barbs, with Chow suggesting that Tory will face a "steep learning curve" if given the job as mayor as he has "no municipal experience."

In response, Tory said that "if experience was the sole determinant of that, then I guess we wouldn't be having this discussion."

Chow was a city councillor before she won a federal seat in Ottawa, where she served as the MP for Trinity-Spadina for eight years.

Tory led the Ontario provincial Conservatives, but has not previously served on city council. He ran for mayor back in 2003, but was defeated at the polls by David Miller.

Tory was previously the chair of the Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance.

Ford, who was a last-minute entry to the mayoral race, was not present for either debate on Monday. Further details about Ford's campaign are expected to be coming on Tuesday.

The Oct. 27 election is now less than six weeks away. Chow, Ford and Tory are up against dozens of other candidates, all of whom want to claim the top job at city hall.