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A statue of Sir John A. Macdonald is seen outside of City Hall in Victoria on Jan. 31, 2017.CHAD HIPOLITO/The Canadian Press

British Columbia Premier John Horgan is keeping his hands behind his back as the City of Victoria mulls where to pass the political “hot potato” of its Sir John A. Macdonald statue.

City council discussed the possibility of donating the statue to the provincial government at a recent budget meeting and directed staff to identify any prohibition on donating it to another entity.

The statue of Canada’s first prime minister and member of Parliament for Victoria from 1878 to 1882 was removed from the steps of Victoria City Hall last August, sparking a national debate about how to acknowledge the wrongs of celebrated historical figures.

Critics said Macdonald’s role at the head of a government that created the Indian Act and established the residential school system, and his racist comments about Indigenous Peoples, made the statue inappropriate.

Related: Victoria to remove statue of Sir John A. Macdonald

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“I haven’t played hot potato since elementary school,” Horgan joked with reporters on Thursday. “I haven’t had any conversations with the mayor about Sir John A. Macdonald and if I see her coming I may well run the other way.”

Horgan said the statue is Victoria’s problem to deal with but the province would be happy to help and he’s prepared to speak with Mayor Lisa Helps if she approaches him.

Helps said during the budget meeting that council’s direction to staff was about preparing for potential questions ahead of public consultations, not about making a decision on the future of the statue itself.

“The motion asking staff to do a bit of research is precisely so that we can have a public conversation. One of the things that will likely come up at a public conversation is, ‘Can we donate the statute?’ And we would have to say, ‘Well we don’t know,’ ” Helps said.

Council also approved up to $10,000 for its relocation, bringing the total bill to $40,000 that staff say will be spent on its removal and relocation as part of the city’s reconciliation efforts.

Coun. Ben Isitt had suggested the provincial government would be a good destination for the statue, given that it has resources dedicated to heritage.

Helps said in an interview that Victoria will be holding talks in the coming months, focusing on what the city must learn about reconciliation and also considering the best place to relocate the statue. A decision on a new home won’t be made until after talks conclude.

Helps said politicians, Coast Salish First Nations in the area and the public have to consider how the statue could be placed with more context, ensuring history is expanded, not erased.

Kwagiulth artist Carey Newman, who is part of the group of local politicians and First Nations leaders who called for the statue’s removal as part of the city’s reconciliation efforts, said he didn’t see much difference between passing the statue on to the province and leaving it where it was.

While he has seen some criticism describing Horgan’s comments as “flippant,” Newman said in some ways he agrees with the premier.

“I kind of feel like that’s passing on the responsibility,” said Newman, who is also the Audain Fellow at the University of Victoria.

“Really what the conversation I hope becomes is: How do we address all of who Sir John A. Macdonald was so that we don’t have a monument that sort of speaks only to the narrative of his being the founding father of Canada?”

Newman said that discussion should involve everyone from artists and academics to Indigenous groups and the provincial government because reconciliation is about bringing people together, not the divisive conversations that have largely sprung from the statue’s removal.

“I hope that people see this as an opportunity to engage in important conversations about the hard work of reconciling all of what Canada’s history is, because I think too often we go to our positional corners and rather than listening we’re busy trying to make our own messages heard.”

Helps said council has directed that the upcoming talks about the statute and reconciliation should be run through her office.

She said the format could including “people coming, sharing a few meals, sitting around tables, and having a conversation to start.”

A date for talks is expected to be set after council approves Victoria’s strategic plan.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford wrote a letter to Helps in August offering to accept the statue and display it on government property.

“Our offer still stands,” press secretary Ivana Yelich said Thursday.