Olivia Chow, Doug Ford, Ari Goldkind and John Tory all participated at the debate at the Anne and Max Tanenbaum Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto, sponsored by the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.
Initially, Tory's SmartTrack plan came under fire.
But it was Goldkind’s response to a question about ending anti-Semitism that set off a firestorm.
“I would start on the issue of anti-Semitism by not having a mayor who refers to us — the Jewish people in this room — with a derogatory name that starts with ‘k,’” he said. “We cannot have a mayor like that because that is where it starts.”
Goldkind was referring to the mayor's use of a racial slur after an alleged night of drinking and drug use in March.
'It was unacceptable'
The comment provoked a spirited reaction from the crowd, where Rob Ford sat watching the debate, and shifted the focus of the conversation to the controversial mayor.
On stage, his brother Doug Ford — noticeably deflated — tried to change the subject.
“Ari, I’m not going to address your comment. But you know something? My doctor — my Jewish doctor — my Jewish dentist, my Jewish lawyer, accountant...” Ford said to raucous booing from the crowd.
The comment did little to win over the crowd or Ford's fellow candidates.
"I want you to say that what your brother said was inexcusable and it doesn't get washed under the rug," Goldkind said.
Doug Ford, for his part, insisted he doesn't approve of his brother's use of the racial slur.
"I have told him very clearly that it was unacceptable and inexcusable," Ford said.
Goldkind was unapologetic when asked after the debate about his statements regarding the mayor's conduct.
“I’m not prepared to give him a free pass,” Goldkind said. “Do I wish him the best of health? Yes. But you don’t get a free pass from me.”
Neither Rob nor Doug Ford took questions. Both left immediately after the debate.
The three front runners — Chow, Tory and Doug Ford — are expected to attend another debate tonight at Centennial College.
Toronto voters head to the polls on Oct. 27.