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Liberal Bennett tries to turn back the clock on ad campaign

A provincial news broadcast reported that Kootenay East B.C. Liberal Party incumbent Bill Bennett said a controversial campaign advertisement has run since February, but his NDP opponent said he believes the ad in question first appeared just last week.

“[Bennett] says the ads have been running since February and finds it ironic the NDP is only raising its objections now so close to election day,” Global B.C. television reported on May 10.

But Bennett's NDP opponent, Troy Sebastian, said he's been watching Bennett's ads for months and the contentious text, “You want someone who pays taxes and is concerned about how that money is being spent," first appeared May 4.

“That was the first time I saw it, was the paper on Monday,” said Sebastian, a member of the Ktunaxa First Nation. “People immediately noticed that his campaign was taking that approach. We saw it as a sign of desperation.”

A Liberal party official said the taxes ad first ran on May 4, but the "He's one of us" series has been running since February. "The reference to the ads running since February was provided by the reporter," Shane Mills wrote in an e-mail.

A call to the reporter, Ron Bencze, was not immediately returned.

The Global television report also quoted Bennett telling a news conference, “This is the worst personal attack on me that I've ever experienced and it's one of the dirtiest things I've ever seen in politics in my life.”

It was the quote about taxes that particularly rankled Sebastian and, according to a Canadian Press report Stewart Phillip, grand chief of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. The ad implies First Nations have no knowledge nor understanding of the government's management of services through taxes, he said. "The unspoken part is, 'My aboriginal opponent would not have any knowledge of these matters.'"

The Liberals do not dispute that the taxes text first appeared May 4.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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