The several provincial and territorial elections held earlier this month did little to alter the political landscape, especially when it came to aboriginal issues.
The most crucial contest was in the Northwest Territories (NWT), set against the backdrop of the initiative toward devolution, which would give the territory more province-like powers; at issue is control of lucrative mining and other resources. Many aboriginal leaders are against devolution, because they are working toward self-government and do not want to be saddled with provincial authority.
Chief Bill Erasmus, leader of the Dene Nation, the NWT’s main aboriginal group, encouraged members to run for office so as to fill the legislature with bodies who would oppose devolution.
But NWT voters elected nearly the same legislative assembly, with all but one incumbent winning the October 3 contest, CBC News reported. In the single upset, Michael McLeod, a former transportation minister, lost in the Deh Cho riding (district) to Michael Nadli, Grand Chief of the Dehcho First Nations from 1997 to 2003.
Most candidates were aboriginal, or 25 of the 47, CBC News said. The NWT is governed by consensus, which means there are no political parties, but rather an elected legislature whose members choose the premier. The selection process is under way.
In Manitoba, primitive living conditions, a lack of clean water and a plethora of flood damage were central issues to aboriginals during the election season. But according to the Canadian Press, candidates paid virtually no attention to these concerns.
“Very little has been done to woo First Nation voters,” the Canadian Press reported just before the October 4 contest. “Very few political leaders have ventured into predominantly First Nation northern ridings and none have focused heavily on aboriginal policies.”
The New Democratic Party won 37 seats, the Progressive Conservatives 19 and the Liberals just one, according to Elections Manitoba. Premier Greg Selinger of the NDP won another term and was one of the few candidates to tour aboriginal territory. He pointed out that since reserves are a federal responsibility, the provincial government does not have much to do with what happens on them. Manitoba’s aboriginals, for their part, consider the provincial government to be borderline irrelevant.
“The provincial process or the provincial election hasn’t always been that urgent of a matter for us to create a groundswell of involvement,” said Grand Chief Derek Nepinak, head of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, to the Canadian Press. “There is also the consideration that many of our people, particularly the ones who work from treaty-based principles, do not consider themselves to be Manitobans.”
In contrast, Ontario’s aboriginals were very involved in the electoral process, with the Chiefs of Ontario (COO) holding an Election Town Hall weeks before the voting. Although aboriginals welcomed a Liberal government victory in the October 6 election, they too noted a lack of attention being paid to their issues. Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty won a third term, though this time in a minority government with one legislative seat short of a majority. The Liberal Party won 53 ridings, the Progressive Conservatives won 37 and the New Democratic Party (NDP) won 17, according to Elections Ontario. A majority would have required 54 of 107 seats.
The Progressive Conservatives won the majority in Newfoundland and Labrador on October 11, with 37 seats, followed by the Liberals with six and the NDP with five, the Conservatives’ third consecutive majority. Yukon voters also headed to the polls on October 11, with the Yukon Party winning 11 seats, forming its third majority government, the NDP with six seats in the role of official opposition, and the Liberals with two.
On Prince Edward Island, the Liberals won 22 seats, to hold 51.4 percent of the legislature; the Progressive Conservatives 40.2 percent, with five seats, and the NDP got 3.2 percent, but no seats. Next contest is in Saskatchewan, on November 7.