A leading member of Toronto's Progressive Conservative establishment has attached her name to a letter of support for former provincial Liberal cabinet minister and mayoral candidate George Smitherman.

"We believe, hands down, that George Smitherman is the only one who can finally fix City Hall and get it focused on serving us as taxpayers," said the letter, signed by Isabel Bassett and released Wednesday by Smitherman's campaign team.

Bassett served as a cabinet minister in the 1995-1999 government of Progressive Conservative Premier Mike Harris. She lost in 1999 to then-Liberal MPP Michael Bryant.

Two other former provincial Tory cabinet ministers signed the letter, as did two senators and a regional vice-president (Toronto) of the Ontario P.C. party. A total of 38 people signed the letter, including Stefan Baranski, a spokesperson for Smitherman.

"We’re conservatives. He’s a Liberal. Thankfully in municipal politics, party lines don’t get in the way of supporting the best candidate for the job."

The letter, which is going out to thousands of Tory supporters, goes on to say that Smitherman is "right on the issues that matter to conservatives the most."

Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone used the endorsement to attack Smitherman, saying, "Mike Harris is back, in the form of George Smitherman."

Pantalone is the lone candidate of the top five who would continue the centre-left policies of Mayor David Miller, who is stepping down from politics after serving two terms.

The letter didn't mention Coun. Rob Ford by name. Ford is the presumed frontrunner in the race for mayor, with Smitherman . His father Doug was an MPP in the Harris regime from 1995 to 1999. Doug died in 2006.

Rob Ford has described himself as a "red Tory" and has run a campaign that has an avowedly fiscal-conservative message -- one that has apparently tapped into a well of anger in some parts of Toronto.

But he has come under fire for some past behaviour and for making remarks, in the context of the Tamil refugees controversy, that Toronto can't accommodate more newcomers.

Other announcements

Two of the other leading mayoral candidates made new campaign announcements Wednesday morning.

Sarah Thomson announced new accountability measures as part of her campaign, including a motion that would require councillors to show up for work, according to a statement released by her campaign office.

"While it is not a legal requirement that being a Toronto councillor is a full-time job, most people expect that for $100,000 a year, elected representatives make it a full-time job," she said.

"Under my leadership, I will make sure councillors show up to work."

The statement also highlighted some of Thomson's budgetary review plans, including a ban on city-funded retirement parties, reductions in councillors' discretionary budgets by at least 20 per cent and a more strict policy for council-funded trips.

Rocco Rossi expanded on his "Let's Get Toronto Moving" plan, announcing he would introduce Rapid Bridge Replacement for Toronto's 11 upcoming major bridge projects. The construction technique builds a replacement bridge off-site and moves it into place once it's completed, disrupting traffic for a much shorter period of time.

"By saving time, overall, we save money," he said.

He used the currently dismantled Jameson Avenue bridge over the Gardiner Expressway as his backdrop. The bridge isn't scheduled to return to service until November 2011.

Wednesday's announcement followed his promise Tuesday of a new, underground extension connecting the Allen Expressway with the city's downtown core.

That planned underground tunnel was the focus of Smitherman's remarks later on Wednesday morning, as he vowed to stop any plans to build a tunnel through the Spadina corridor.

"At the heart of it, those who love our city … know we must make investments in transit as part of an integrated transportation plan," he said at the intersection of Spadina Avenue and Bloor Street West.

Plaques exist there to mark the end of the Spadina Expressway project in the early 1970s.

He questioned how Rossi intended to pay for such an ambitious project, and how local residents would feel about ventilation shafts and highway access ramps in their neighbourhoods.

This follows Smitherman's announcement Tuesday that, if elected, he will force road contractors who fail to finish projects on schedule to pay compensation to businesses affected by repairs and closures.

Smitherman added that he would offer a critique of Rob Ford's transportation plan on Thursday.

The five leading candidates will take part in a debate which will hosted by the Building Owners and Managers Association of the Greater Toronto Area (BOMA Toronto) on Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m. in the Osgoode Room at the Sheraton Centre Hotel. The debate will be moderated by CTV Canada AM co-host Seamus O'Regan.

Not impressed

On Wednesday, one of the city's leading business figures pronounced himself unimpressed with the roster of main candidates.

Richard Peddie, president of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, told a business luncheon that none of the five main candidates are showing a long-term vision for this city of 2.5 million people.

"It's not a criticism at all. It's a challenge," he told CTV Toronto.

"I want to hear more about vision. I'm hearing a lot of tactics. But where do they want to take this city? Where's something that rallies the citizens to get behind it, and ultimately get things passed through city council -- and that's tough to do."

Election day is Monday, October 25.

With a report from CTV Toronto's Alicia Markson