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Chief Phillip declines Conservative debate: 'I don't do circus'

Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs Grand Chief, Stewart Phillip, says he won’t participate in a “circus” and take up a challenge from B.C. Conservative candidate Chris Delaney to debate the proposed Recognition and Reconciliation Act.

Delaney, who is running in Chief Phillip’s home riding of Penticton, dropped the gauntlet over the weekend.

“You know where to reach me Stewart,” Delaney said in a press release. “I’m ready for this if you are.”

Throughout the campaign, the B.C. Conservatives have been issuing dire warnings about the proposed legislation, which would have recognized aboriginal title but was shelved by the Liberal government until after the election.

“This agreement would set up another level of government with veto power over any decision that your provincial government makes over land use and resource use anywhere in British Columbia,” B.C Conservative leader Wilf Hanni, routinely says as part of his stump speech. “And it will stop all economic development anywhere in B.C. and possibly even take away title to your own home.”

Phillip sees the Conservative attacks as electoral theatre and sees no reason to become a prop in their spectacle.

“I don’t do circus. And by that mean I don’t engage in an issue where the other party is simply attempting to grandstand and incite an inflammatory debate around an issue that’s of critical importance to us,” he said. “In my view, the B.C. Conservatives do not have a platform of substance and are just seeking a way to raise their public profile in this election through political theatrics and I have no interest in engaging that.”

He called the Conservative rhetoric around the proposed act, “fear mongering.”

“They’re, in my view, willfully distorting the facts in regard to this legislation. I find it absolutely irresponsible and not in the public interest to suggest that the effect of the legislation will bring about people being thrown out of their homes,” Phillip said.

“I mean that is absolutely over the top, and it’s absolutely ludicrous that any government would be involved in co-authoring a piece of legislation that would bring about that result," he added.

According to the B.C. Conservative website, Delaney began his political career by working as former premier Bill Vander Zalm’s communications director when Vander Zalm returned to politics as leader of the B.C. Reform Party.

Delaney went on to lead the B.C. Unity Party, an amalgam of five conservative parties including B.C. Reform, Social Credit, and Conservative parties, during the 2001 election.

Adrian Nieoczym reports for the Kelowna Capital News.

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