09/23/2014 09:42 EDT | Updated 11/23/2014 05:59 EST

Doug Ford faces 1st debate in Toronto mayor's race tonight

Toronto voters will get their first real look at Doug Ford, the mayoralty candidate, tonight as the councillor takes part in his first debate since stepping into the race to "take the torch" from his ailing brother, Mayor Rob Ford.

- Rob Ford pulls out of mayoral race, Doug Ford steps in.

The debate, set for 7:30 p.m. ET at York Memorial Collegiate, will offer some insight into a campaign that began in haste when Coun. Ford filed his candidacy papers less than an hour ahead of the deadline after his brother was forced to drop out to undergo cancer treatment.

Since then Ford has released few details about his platform, saying only that it will be similar to the low-taxes, pro-subway plank championed by his younger brother.  

Ford has some serious catching up to do if he has a hope of posing a serious challenge to former NDP MP Olivia Chow and former Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory, who polls suggest has a strong lead with four weeks to go in the campaign.

All eyes on Ford tonight

Doug Ford began campaigning in earnest last weekend, while his opponents have been busy raising money and honing their campaign messages for months.

"All eyes will be on the stage to see how Ford interacts with Tory and Chow and how the three position themselves in this new three-way race," the CBC's Linda Ward reported Tuesday.

Both Tory and Chow have said Doug Ford's last-minute entry changes little in the race. Both have portrayed Doug Ford as a staunch defender his brother's policies — and bad behaviour — over what has been a tumultuous four-year term for Rob Ford.

"It's another debate, it will have an added element in a new candidate coming to the table," said Tory. "He's not really new though and I think people will be able to see in sharp relief the difference between us, especially in regards to trying to create a city that is united and trying to go forward positively."

About 30 more debates are scheduled ahead of the Oct. 27 vote.

Ford spent Saturday meeting with voters in Ward 2, the suburban ward he represented as a councillor, and where Rob Ford will seek a council seat.

Meanwhile, it's possible that Rob Ford will be released from hospital Tuesday after undergoing his first round of chemotherapy to treat a cancerous tumour in his abdomen.