Aboriginal party strikes fear in NDP
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From: RUSSELL DIABO
Sent: Monday, September 12, 2005 7:19 AM
Subject: Aboriginal party strikes fear in NDP
The Brandon Sun: OnlineAboriginal party strikes fear in NDPMonday, September 12th, 2005By: The Brandon SunIt's a non-threatening threat that has Winnipeg New Democrat MP Pat Martin crying foul on the left. Martin gets upset and vents about many things - this time, it's the possibility of a real challenge in his own backyard that has left him fuming.
Martin told Sun Media this past week he's upset a new political party, the Aboriginal Peoples Party, has as one of its founders a Liberal senator, Thelma Chalifoux. While Chalifoux says she'll let her Grit membership lapse, Martin seems to suggest the party may be some sort of a Liberal front designed to siphon First Nations votes out of areas like his Winnipeg Centre riding, which has a high aboriginal population.
"If this is any way a front or any way connected to the Liberal party, then I have serious concerns about it," Martin says.
New Democrats from Manitoba will certainly have long, dark memories of aboriginal political parties and how their presence on the political scene are like a dagger pointing at the NDP's heart.
It was only 10 years ago that a few provincial Progressive Conservatives thought it would be a good idea to fund aboriginal candidates' campaigns in three central Manitoba constituencies as a way to siphon off votes from the NDP, which typically draws the First Nations vote in provincial elections. Three independent aboriginal candidates ran in the Swan River, Dauphin-Roblin and Interlake constituencies with some outside help, although none of them came even close to either unseating the NDP or even stealing enough votes to allow a Tory candidate to win.
This brainchild of powerful Tory bagmen and operatives turned out to be incredibly stupid. Not only were these campaigns abysmal failures, but thanks to the digging of a CBC reporter, the public eventually found out about it. The subsequent judicial inquiry, resignation of former premier Gary Filmon's chief of staff Taras Sokolyk and reams of public anger contributed to the defeat of the Tory government in 1999.
These same fears must be in play again, however, or else Martin wouldn't be making so much noise about this potential shift in the political landscape.
This party may certainly be a threat if it gets off the ground, but on the other hand, it may not. During the last election, many Manitoba chiefs openly expressed support for Paul Martin's Liberals. One, Norway House Cree Nation Chief Ron Evans, ran unsuccessfully for the party in the northern Rupertsland riding. An aboriginal party candidate may steal some NDP votes, but at the same time, it could steal away Liberal votes if Evans or another chief runs again.
In reality, this will probably blow over in a short time. Few if any political parties become successful on their own. As well, due to the setup of Canada's electoral system and the concentration of near-homogenous aboriginal ridings, an aboriginal party would produce only a couple of MPs even if it managed to get most First Nations people to vote for it.
While all political parties need to pay more attention to First Nations issues, a party dedicated solely to these issues just isn't the answer aboriginal people need to improve their situation.
And as far as Martin's re-election worries go, he has nothing to fear as long as he keeps making noise about aboriginal issues.© 2005 The Brandon Sun
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