Day 12: First Nations would benefit from Electoral Reform

There are a lot of First Nation voters that are tempted to support the New Democratic Party or Green Party this election.  After all, these parties have very progressive agendas when it comes to First Nations issues.  Some voters are just so angry at Conservatives and the Liberals for the current state of Parliament and our fourth election since 2004.

But it’s easy to be progressive and responsive from fourth party status and no-party status.

As the Conservatives say in their latest TV ad:  “A vote for the Liberals is a vote for Ignatieff.”  (Brilliant, eh?  Who writes this stuff for them?)  That’s certainly true.  Truth is, this time around, a vote for NDP or the Greens is a vote for HARPER.

I’ve been swayed by the charms of Jack Layton too.  Last election, the NDP promised to restore the Kelowna Accord.  But we can’t forget the fact that Kelowna was conceived of and led by a historic partnership between the Liberals, the provinces and First Nations. Sadly, it was the NDP supporting the Harper Conservatives who brought down the Martin government and thusly, obliterated the most significant piece of Aboriginal policy…  EVER!

Promise what they want, the reality is that the NDP have absolutely no hope whatsoever of forming the opposition, much less a government. For Layton, it’s easy to support every single social cause you bring to them.  In my political experience, the NDP have never said “no” to First Nations.

Another fact is, the Greens have absolutely no hope whatsoever of winning a single seat, much less form a caucus in Parliament. I offer my kodos to Elizabeth May for stepping up and demanding to be heard through a debate.  But truth be told, she’s unelectable herself.

Monday night, I was contacted by devasmicota on Twitter who suggested that we ought to support a First Nations party.  “How about a First Nations Party for whom we don’t have to sell our souls to”. I agree wholeheartedly.  To me, that is the best way to ensure our voice is heard in Parliament.  But electing an MP on a First Nations Party ticket is just not going to happen anytime soon.

However, there is hope.

Every once in a while, there is a call to examine and change the way we elect parliament.  The call for proportional representation will get even louder if the government fails to make a minority parliament work after the third time.

Proportional representation is a type of election system that moves away from the first-past-the-post election of MPs, to allocating seats based on representative need.  During the 2007 Ontario election, there was a referendum asking voters that very question. Unfortunately, it failed miserably.

We can certainly argue that Canada needs a seat, or a number of seats allocated in the House of Commons for First Nations.  We can also use proportional representation to ensure every party has an elected MP based on popular vote.  If that were the case, in 2008 the Greens would have elected 20 MPs. That’s great news for the environment, but bad news for Elizabeth May’s day job.

First Nations would truly benefit from electoral reform.  Not only would we get one or two seats in Parliament by means of a set-aside.  A First Nations party could manage to get two or three more based on the popular vote.  Five seats in a proportional representative parliament is a mighty caucus.  In a minority parliament, those five votes might just hold the balance of power.

That being said, I wish all the luck to Will Morin, leader of the First Nations National Party in his candidacy in the Sudbury riding.  Folks like Will and Jerry Fontaine, both Anishinaabe, will be instrumental under a proportional representation system when the time comes.

If Parliament continues as it has in the past five years, the time for proportional representation won’t come soon enough.



  1. Vicki Monague says:

    Kimberley Cloutier

    Stephane Dion’s decision to break faith with the Kelowna Accord is an insult to every First Nation voter in Canada. This was the message MP Charlie Angus (Timmins-James Bay) delivered to First Nation leadership on Manitoulin Island today. Angus joined NDP candidate Carol Hughes in a series of meetings with First Nation leadership in the wake of the Liberal Party’s shocking decision to walk away on its commitments to the Kelowna Accord.

    Under Stephane Dion, the Liberal’s $5 billion commitment to the Kelowna Accord was stripped down to a mere $2 billion. Angus says the Liberals have, once again, broken faith with First Nation families.

    “If Mr. Dion thinks he can break faith with First Nation communities he has another thing coming. The NDP understand that we need real commitments and real targets to move First Nation families out of poverty. We are the only party willing to make the commitments necessary to ensure that schools and safe housing are possible.”

    Angus received international attention for his battles in impoverished communities of Kashechewan and Attawapiskat. He came to Manitoulin to support the campaign of Carol Hughes.

    “I know Carol. She’s a fighter. It is essential that we elect people like Carol who won’t just collect a pay-cheque for sitting on the backbenches. She will be an excellent ally to both the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal residents of Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing.”

    In travelling across her vast riding, Hughes says she has learned many lesson from First Nations.

    “What I have learned from First Nation communities is that people want to move forward. They want to know that they will have partners at the Federal and provincial level so that all our communities can actually benefit from the rich resources in our region.”

    Under Jack Layton, the NDP have made firm commitments to work in partnership with First Nation communities. The NDP is the only party that has made the $1 billion per year commitment to match the commitments of the Kelowna Accord of 2005.

    “October 2, 2008

    Mr. Layton and Dion discussed commitment to First Nations:

    The Kelowna Accord committed $5 billion over five years for Aboriginal Canadians.

    The Liberal platform (page 67) allocates only $2.1 billion over four years for “Aboriginal Canadians.”

    The New Democrat plan fully meets the Kelowna commitment

    I find it interesting that the perception of many votes in Canada is that you have to vote either Red or Blue, otherwise your supporting the other party. The Liberal Party, Michael Ignatief especially, has no credibility with me and the legitimacy of how he became leader of the party is questionable. The Paul Martin Government was brought down for a reason. Really, people should vote the way they want to vote, not because they are being pressured to vote one way or another, because voting red is not a vote for blue. Both of these parties have been in power and misused it so much, ahem, sponsorship scandel (The John Gomery Inquiry).

    I think democracy works because people believe in it, participate in it and care about it. Not because they have to vote strategically and continually give in to a notion that only a red or blue can rule the world. I will vote NDP because I believe in them and they supported everything that we did in the summer of 2010 to oppose the HST, which at the time, I knew would affect our people even if we got the point-of-sale PST exemption, and I was right.

    I’m just one person however and my opinions carry no weight anywhere. I will however state that I believe the entire party system is anti-democratic. I believe important legislation should be passed or not passed through sound debate and education, rather than party will. No one knows whether or not the NDP or the Greens can form an opposition or government, that comment is more of a rant. It’s almost like saying that millions of people who vote for them are not intelligent, but in the same right, it further legitimizes the fact that maybe they do have some validity.

    People should follow their hearts when they vote. If people are so swayed to vote based on the opinions of others, I do fear for the state of this democracy because then people are just leading the blind and the unconscious, when in reality, real leaders lead the educated and informed.

    I think MP’s too should follow the will of their Constituents when supporting or not support Legislation. While I understand there are some good benefits of having a party system, I think it is, for the most part, designed to take the voice away from the people.

    Unfortunately, the masses of Canada are unconscious and interested in Corporate Canada, Harper will get his Minority…and maybe a coalition isn’t so bad, as parties will have to work together.

    That’s my rant. No offense. I am respectful of your opinions, but I have to fully analyze this for my own understanding.

    Best wishes!

  2. Bob Goulais says:

    Miigwetch, Vicki. There are many who remember quite clearly that it was Layton who supported Harper in their own coalition back then. That was the vote that brought down the Martin government. That same government that brought together the provinces and a $5 billion commitment. Not just promises, it was real action. A government that signed, in black and white, a new nation-to-nation deal with First Nations. I was in the room when the political accord was signed by Paul Martin and Phil Fontaine. Those weren’t election promises… it was action. What did the NDP get for their uneasy alliance with Harper? A Harper government and nothing for First Nations.