09/26/2014 11:37 EDT | Updated 11/26/2014 05:59 EST

Doug Ford pulls out of lunchtime debate at 11th hour

Mayoral candidate Doug Ford has pulled out of a lunchtime debate at the Empire Club over concerns the admission costs make the event out of reach for "hardworking people."

"Debates should be open events that any member of the public can attend and ask questions," said Ford in a statement. "How many average, hardworking people can afford to take 3 hours away from work, to come downtown, and spend almost $100 having lunch?"

The debate was scheduled to include three front-running candidates, including John Tory and Olivia Chow. It would've been only the second debate where all three were present. Tickets were listed at $80-per-person.

Ford has ruled out appearing in a handful of debates since he began his mayoral run. 

Elitism has been a theme of Ford's campaign, as he has issued several attacks on his rival Tory for having his roles as CEO at Rogers and commissioner of the CFL handed to him on a "silver platter."

"I have told the Empire Club that I will make myself available if they’d like to hold another event in the future that is open to the public at no cost," continued Ford.

Both Chow and Tory are still committed to the debate, which will be livestreamed on at 12:45 p.m.

"We shouldn't be too surprised," said Chow, citing Ford's absences from crucial city hall votes as examples of Ford not showing up. "It's disrespectful."

Tory called Ford a "chicken" and mocked him for not showing up. "Colonel Sanders should be looking for him," said Tory, characterizing his rival as scared to debate.