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FPNP encourage Aboriginal population to get out and vote.

ATHABASCA

With the Canadian election approaching climax, and the much-ballyhooed debates out of the way, two politicians are quietly trying to make some noise in the 2008 election.

John Malcolm and Rob Ballantyne are running in their respective ridings for the First Peoples National Party of Canada (FPNP). This will be the FPNP's second shot at getting a respected voice heard within the walls of parliament. However, both are aware the prospects point towards an uphill battle.

John Malcolm who is running in the Athabasca-Fort McMurray riding is no stranger to uphill battles. He took part in the last election and finished last in a pool of four; however of the FPNP's five candidates, Malcolm had the best showing.

Malcolm believes that there are certain concerns that need to be addressed and presented on the political stage.

"I feel it's important that these issues get brought to attention at government levels. Maybe something might get done on it," expressed Malcolm. "If we don't voice our concerns, the government would be complacent; thinking that they're doing a good job and not do any more improvements on what they have been doing."

"I feel Athabasca and all Alberta citizens should be entitled to positive impact benefits and we need to educate Canada on this very important issue. Aboriginal people and all Canadians should understand what impact benefits are and individual rights and entitlements associated with them," Malcolm addressed on the FPNP Web site.

Malcolm said that his biggest challenge in this campaign is complacency amongst the voters.

"Getting voters out to vote. Getting Aboriginal people to participate in the democratic process, and convincing them that we're a party worth voting for. We're out there, fighting for them and their rights," emphasized Malcolm.

The ongoing battle against complacency is a sentiment that is shared by Rob Ballantyne in Saskatchewan, a self-proclaimed underdog. He is running in the Denesthe-Missinipi-Churchill riding.

"One of the biggest challenges Aboriginals have is getting Aboriginal people to vote because voting is the least thing on their minds," said Ballantyne, noting that most of his possible constituents live in a culture of poverty. "When they're struggling, trying to make ends meet everyday, paying the bills and feeding their children, voting is the least thing on their mind when they're struggling."

One way that Ballantyne addresses the challenges is to utilize all of the media outlets.

"The strategy that I have over here is talking to the media, taking advantage of the media to communicate to the constituency," said Ballantyne. "The only thing we can do is talk to the media because we have no funding as FPNP, we have no budget, but then again that's the story of Aboriginal peoples."

Malcolm stresses that they are an Aboriginal party fighting for Aboriginal concerns and maybe that will incline more voters to battle indifference.

"We're hoping. Most people want to see the person come to their door and say this is what we're doing for you," said Malcolm, noting that visiting every home is a feat in itself, due to the fact that he has one of the biggest ridings.

Ballantyne said that it is important to note of what the FPNP represents for Aboriginal people.

"What we are saying is that we no longer want to be excluded in the social and economic prosperity of Canada. We want to be included and recognized as the proud Canadians that we are," said Ballantyne, adding that securing a seat in Ottawa would be a significant symbolism for all Aboriginals.

While Malcolm is well on his way to becoming a seasoned political veteran, this is Ballantyne's maiden voyage.

"I've never been involved in politics. I've had a lot of bad experiences in the past. Partisan politics have always turned me off and I prefer to work at the grassroots level," explained Ballantyne. " In this election, I felt my conscience didn't allow me to do nothing because of the majority of our Aboriginal peoples are oblivious of the Conservative government."

Ballantyne worries what a majority Conservative government would represent to Aboriginals, claiming that the merger of the Canadian Alliance (formerly the Reform Party) and the Progressive Conservative Party meant bad news for Canada's Aboriginals.

"I believe they (Canadian Alliance) infiltrated the Conservative banner and this government has been irresponsible in promoting racist sentiments towards Aboriginal peoples," Ballantyne claimed. "Their populist rhetoric of equality of all Canadians, that First Nations shouldn't have special status under Canadian law, and that has promoted racist attitudes towards Aboriginal peoples."

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Ballantyne went on to explain that the Conservatives have been expressing that Canada's Aboriginals are getting pampered with free education, among other things, and that is wasting taxpayer's dollars in a time when everyone is struggling. It does nothing, but damage to an already laboured relationship.

Due to the fact that the Conservative Party has only ever held a minority government, Ballantyne noted that Canada has never really seen the Conservative's true colours.

"They've been forced to be bipartisan, and to work with other parties in order to get the business done, thereby they had to set aside their real agenda, their true agenda," claimed Ballantyne.

With Canadian Aboriginals considered as the fastest growing population within Canada, and the fact that in as many as 60 ridings in Canada, Aboriginals possess at least five per cent of the vote, it is believed that Aboriginals have the potential to seriously influence the electoral process.

Many reports have shown that there are concerns of Aboriginal issues being overlooked in this election. Both the dismissal of the Kelowna Accord and the UN's Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the Conservatives has remained a sore spot. However, the most pressing concerns remain incongruent educational funding, and the ongoing poverty level that many First Nations face.

"Our platform is putting people first, putting families first, and it seems to be ignored during this election," expressed Malcolm.

Both Malcolm and Ballantyne acknowledge that even political recognition remains a formidable opponent. With no money, and no advertisements to spread the word, they use the media and the moccasin telegraph. They both refuse to waver in their attempt to be a legitimate voice for Aboriginals.

"I'm here to help practice democracy, help Aboriginal people get their rights and try to help all Canadian citizens," said Malcolm.

To learn more about the candidates visit www.fpnpoc.ca or go to their Facebook pages.

BY THOMAS J BRUNER

Sweetgrass Staff Writer
COPYRIGHT 2008 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:NATIONAL NEWS; First Peoples National Party of Canada
Author:Bruner, Thomas J.
Publication:Alberta Sweetgrass
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Oct 1, 2008
Words:1075
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