First Nations NDP candidate demands answers over B.C. Liberal attack ad

CRANBROOK, B.C. - A B.C. NDP candidate says Liberal Leader Gordon Campbell must answer for a cabinet minister's attack ad that he says targets him for being First Nations.

CRANBROOK, B.C. - A B.C. NDP candidate says Liberal Leader Gordon Campbell must answer for a cabinet minister's attack ad that he says targets him for being First Nations.

Troy Sebastian, a member of the Ktunaxa First Nation who is running for the NDP in the East Kootenay riding, says the ad for Liberal incumbent Bill Bennett is in direct contrast to Campbell's call for a new relationship with aboriginals.

The ad running this week in a Kootenay newspaper, says voters "want someone who pays taxes and is concerned about how that money is being spent."

Beneath it is a photo of Bennett with his family and a slogan that reads, "He's one of us."

Bennett said the ad was not an attack on First Nations but Sebastian said he wants the premier to provide some kind of an explanation himself.

Other First Nations leaders have asked Campbell to apologize.

"For me, the focus is on questioning the premier, who said that the future should not be one of denial or through the old relationship of conflict or institutionalized inequity, and that's straight from their platform," he said Thursday.

"I think the premier needs to be asked if he's in favour of that or this approach."

It's not the first time Bennett has been in hot water.

In February 2007, he resigned from cabinet for sending a rude email to a constituent and spent a year on the back benches, before returning to the cabinet last year.

He defended the ad Thursday, saying it's part of a series that shows him fishing, golfing and spending time in the Kootenays with his family.

"The whole idea with these ads is to show people that I'm not somebody that wears a sit and goes to Victoria. I actually understand the people here in the Kootenays, I'm one of them."

However, he said other ads did not include any text about paying taxes, which some First Nations are exempt from paying.

Bennett said he has a strong record of supporting First Nations initiatives, including every treaty.

He said his NDP rival, "who I like, he's a nice young guy," has hired a "big-city" campaign organizers.

"This to me smacks of big-city politics and they're trying to stir up a big controversy just as we go into an election and to me, it's unfortunate," he said.

Grand Chief Doug Kelly, of the First Nations Summit, called Bennett's remarks ignorant and troubling.

"It shows Premier Campbell has to educate his own caucus about the new relationship (with First Nations)," Kelly said.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, went further, saying Campbell must apologize.

He said the ad is clearly offensive because it implies First Nations don't have any knowledge or understanding about the government's management of services through taxes.

"The unspoken part is, 'My aboriginal opponent would not have any knowledge of these matters."'

Stewart said Bennett may have resorted to using such a negative ad because he's desperate to win his seat for a third time in a riding that also has a strong B.C. Conservative party candidate.

 
 
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