10/08/2015 04:57 EDT | Updated 10/08/2015 05:59 EDT

Nenshi Wishes Niqab Wasn't An Election Campaign 'Flashpoint'

Calgary's mayor toned down his harsh criticism of the Conservative government.

Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Calgary's mayor toned down his harsh criticism of the Conservative government Thursday for its handling of the niqab issue.

Naheed Nenshi ripped the Conservatives' position as politically motivated and dangerous in an interview last week. He then got into a war of words with Defence Minister Jason Kenney, who accused the mayor and "people like him'' of "politicizing it.''

Nenshi, who spoke to reporters after attending a citizenship ceremony, said he wishes the niqab hadn't become an election campaign issue.

"I did think briefly about the fact that this ceremony, that so few people have actually seen and more Canadians need to see, has become such a flashpoint in this election,'' Nenshi said.

"I would strongly suggest that of course people should vote on their principles and their values. We should always, in every election, vote for the Canada we want.''

Nenshi, who is Muslim, fired back on Twitter after Kenney's remarks.

"'People like me,' eh?'' Nenshi responded. "Let's just assume (Jason Kenney) means 'thoughtful people,' shall we?''

Religious accommodation, specifically banning the wearing of face coverings during citizenship ceremonies, has become one of the campaign's most contentious issues, particularly in seat-rich Quebec.

Nenshi said human rights have become urban issues, since most immigrants gravitate to cities.

"We in these cities make a promise to new Canadians, a promise that they will have the opportunity to live a great life here. And, so, in speaking out about human rights issues we are very much speaking about urban issues,'' he said.

"Of course that forms a part of how all of us determine what kind of Canada we want.''

Nenshi released responses from the four major political parties who responded to Calgary's "Cities Matter'' survey regarding issues ranging from transit to infrastructure funding.

"The parties in some ways are not as far apart as you might think on these things, but these are valid questions for citizens and policy makers to think about.''

He was quick to point out that responses from the federal Conservatives have been delayed.

"It is a bit surprising that it is taking this long. I understand they asked for several extensions and they've blown each extension so far.

"Apparently the dog ate their homework and someone's on a plane from Ottawa to Vancouver, but apparently when he lands we will get it.''

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