Ari Goldkind would rather be taking part in a mayoral debate, but instead he’s home taking care of a sick dog.

To be sure, the dog isn’t the reason he’s home. He’s home on account of the debate being cancelled because both Olivia Chow and John Tory aren’t interested in debating him, he says.

(Tory said he couldn’t attend because of overwhelming demands on his time, his campaign said, while Chow’s campaign said she offered to do a question and answer session when Tory pulled out).

It’s a scenario that encapsulates some of the challenges that come with being a long-shot candidate in Toronto’s mayoral race.

If you haven’t heard of him before, Goldkind is the latest outsider to receive praise and attention for shaking things up in a mayoral debate that has shrunk down to two much-heard voices of late.

While he’s remained on the fringes for the past few months, Goldkind’s received more attention since being included in three recent debates, the last one being a debate hosted by CIvicAction at Evergreen Brick Works where he received praise for taking both Chow and Tory to task on some of their promises.

But just managing to get a spot onstage at those debates was a challenge, he says.

“There is a tremendous resistance to allow anybody new into this discussion,” Goldkind says of the mayoral race. He says he’s fighting an attitude that “unless you’ve put 30 years into this, nobody should pay attention to you.”

Goldkind has never run for anything before. A criminal defense lawyer by trade, he says he was inspired to run when he saw the mayor “in one of his stupors.”

“Out of the blue I said this city deserves a better mayor. This is embarrassing. I could do a better job,” Goldkind says. Spurred on by friends, he says a plant grew from the seed of the idea.

“From a little idea a year ago to the stage at the Evergreen I can assure you, it has been the most challenging journey imaginable and also the most rewarding,” Goldkind says.

He adds he’s not a quitter, despite his “longshot” status and that he doesn’t take the run lightly.

That much is perhaps clear from the fact that he managed to get into the CIvicAction debate.

“We had just followed up with (CivicAction) though the summer trying show I would elevate their debate,” he says. “They did their due diligence on me. They looked at my platform, my videos, my plans and they were good enough to include me and the day sort of spoke for itself.”

By most accounts, Goldkind got high scores, with zingers aimed at both Tory and Chow.

During one question on youth unemployment, he drew praise for taking Tory to task for saying he would ‘go through his rolodex’ to help find jobs for young people. Goldkind retorted that ‘calling your friends’ is no answer to youth unemployment.

He also said that with a promise to hold property taxes at or below the rate of inflation, neither has a realistic plan to fund their commitments.

A fan of David Miller’s vision for the city, Goldkind says people need to pay for a better city, but have been misled by ‘fear-mongering’ about the burden of taxes in a “Kardashian decade” where intelligence is not valued.

“For about 50 cents (more) a day to the average household, this city could begin building the most incredible transit, housing, development, parks, public spaces in the city’s history,” he says.

He says the Fords, Chow and Tory are misleading everyone by promising a better city for less money.

To fix gridlock, for example, Goldkind says the city needs congestion fees and road tolls.

“This works in every single city that has tried it,” he says.

The police budget also needs to be reined in, he says.

“The city is not a crime-infested city,” Goldkind says. “This is an extremely peaceful city.”

In terms of transit, he says he would continue to build on 'the spirit’ of David Miller’s Transit City plan to make the city accessible for the less advantaged.

And with a tattered trail of broken dreams lining Toronto’s congested roads, Goldkind says his outsider status might actually be an advantage.

“If that’s what experience gets us,” he says, “I think this city can do a lot better.”

He may be right, even if the polls don’t even rate his chances at winning. At worst, the race might be a little more interesting if he is able to strong-arm his way into a few more debates.

All he has to do now is get the other candidates to turn up.

@Josh_F is on Twitter. Remember for instant breaking news follow @cp24 on Twitter.