Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Aboriginal Voters and the 2009 BC Election

In British Columbia there is a strong vote for the NDP on Indian Reserves, though not all Indian Reserves. A lot of bands that are members of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs do not encourage voting so turn out on these reserves tends to be very, very low.

It is not hard to track voting on reserve in most of rural BC because there are polls dedicated to the reserves. First Nation reserves where people do vote in elections have typically voted 95% for the NDP. As an example, poll 64 in 1996 in Skeena (Kitamaat Village) the NDP got 249 votes and other four candidates got 14 votes.

In 1996 the NDP won the election by three seats, the NDP win over the Liberals in three seats was less than than the NDP vote on reserve. Specifically these were Skeena, Cariboo South, and Bulkley Valley Stikine, if they had gone the other way in 1996, Gordon Campbell would have won. The NDP lost a three ridings in that election because the on reserve voters boycotted the election.

What will happen this time around? There has never been a government in Canadian history as willing to respectfully partner with the First Nations as the current BC Liberal government. The BC Liberals have given the First Nations their first real access to resources outside of the control of Indian Affairs. They are doing what the Skeena Native Development Society report Masters in Our Own House - The Path to Prosperity said was needed.

The new bill coming forward to recognize aboriginal title and rights will also set the stage for BC First Nations to begin self governance. Self governing First Nations need to out from under Indian Affairs, so far only Sechelt and the Nisga'a have achieved this. The BC Liberals are giving First Nations in BC the path out of the generations of victimhood the Indian Act has impossed on aboriginal people, they are giving them a path to free them from Soviet collectivist model that has failed.

How will the NDP respond? At best they can say they agree with Gordon Campbell, but their track record on aboriginal issues for the last four years has been silence or an embarassing public dispute over the Tsawwassen Treaty. The NDP needs this core consituency to win a number of rural ridings in this province and can only hope that they will vote NDP out of habit and not base their vote on who is best for aboriginal people.

Let us say there is a shift of 1/2 of the aboriginal votes from the NDP to the Liberals. This shift is enough to put both Cariboo ridings, North Island, Skeena and Fraser Nicola into the win column for the Liberals. But it does not end there.

Here is the shocker, if the aboriginal vote splits 50/50 in this election, the NDP will lose North Coast.

If aboriginal people vote for the BC Liberals because of how well the New Relationship has gone so far and new bill on aboriginal title, the BC Liberals will take five to six ridings off of the NDP on May 12th from that vote alone.
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