10/08/2014 05:17 EDT | Updated 10/08/2014 05:59 EDT

Vancouver Election 2014: Gregor Robertson Skips Affordable Housing Debate" data-caption="" data-credit="Kris Krug/Flickr">

The first significant debate of Vancouver mayoral candidates was missing a key player: the mayor.

Vision Vancouver incumbent Gregor Robertson chose to skip the Urban Development Institute event, which focused on development and affordable housing, because the party says it was sponsored by adversary Rob Macdonald, reported The Province.

In July, Robertson tore into Macdonald for spreading "false rumours" about the mayor's separation.

The institute pulled Macdonald's sponsorship of Tuesday morning's discussion to try to get Robertson on board, executive director Anne McMullin told The Vancouver Sun. She said the mayor still refused to show up.

And for one reason or another, he wasn't the only one. Only 70 people bought tickets to the event and of that, around 60 showed up, said the Sun.

NPA candidate Kirk LaPointe and COPE candidate Meena Wong took Robertson's absence as an opportunity to lob criticisms at the two-term mayor. Wong said that Robertson is “so transparent, that we can’t see you anymore," reported The Province. The mayor's no-show was an “act of cowardice," said LaPointe, reported Metro News.

Beyond that, there seemed to be little heat at the event. Candidates presented their policies to the audience but didn't attack each other's ideas, according to Metro.

All five candidates — the other two are Independents Colin Shandler and Bob Kasting — are set to attend a debate on Oct. 22 at Langara College.

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