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First Nations support went to NDP in federal election.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

MIKISEW CREE NATION

In the 2015 federal election, the New Democrats outpolled the Liberals by more than three to one in Alberta polling divisions in which only First Nations members voted.

Recent information released by Elections Canada indicates that in those polling divisions, voters cast 5,916 ballots for their NDP candidates in comparison to 1,829 for the Liberal challengers. The Conservative candidates took 1,147 ballots. However, in all the ridings, Conservatives still won.

Melody Lepine, the NDP candidate for Fort McMurray, is not surprised that the NDP got such strong support on the Indigenous front.

"Its very consistent with what I was hearing during my campaign visits within most of the Aboriginal communities up here in my region. They seemed to be very supportive and I suppose the results show that," she said.

Lepine was one of six Indigenous candidates running under the NDP banner. The Liberals had one Indigenous candidate. There were no Indigenous candidates north of Red Deer. No Indigenous candidate was successful in Alberta.

Lepine holds that what drew many Indigenous voters to the NDP was what enticed her to run as a candidate.

"They had a very strong platform dealing with Aboriginal issues-education, consultation, the (United Nations) declaration (on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples), dealing with resource development activities ... missing and murdered Aboriginal women. There just seemed to be a full depth of addressing very, very important fundamental issues," she said. "I think the NDP have built a pretty solid relationship with Indigenous people in Canada ... so I think there's already been that trust established."

Lepine also believes that NDP leader Thomas Mulcair captured support by participating in the Assembly of First Nations' leadership debate, held on Enoch Cree Nation. Mulcair was the only leader to take part. The Liberals were represented by Carolyn Bennett, who was since named Indigenous and Northern Affairs minister by Trudeau. The Green Party also had a representative while the Conservatives were absent.

"It sends a message. I think Chiefs always want to have that meaningful engagement with a party leader. Attending sessions like that shows a willingness to work with political leaders, including First Nations," said Lepine.

Thirty-seven polling stations counted votes from First Nations members only. In the south, Stoney Nakoda Nation, Siksika Nation, and Piikani Nation did not vote NDP. Instead, Stoney Nakoda Nation and Siksika favoured the Conservatives and Piikani Nation went Liberal.

Lepine doesn't have an explanation as to those First Nations-only polls that didn't support the general consensus.

"I don't know those ridings very well, those areas ... in southern Alberta sometimes the issues are very different than in northern Alberta," said Lepine.

There were 66 other polling divisions that were what Elections Canada classified as "partially (having a) relationship to (an) Aboriginal community."

Across the country, the NDP took 39.2 per cent of the votes cast in on-reserve polling. The Liberals were a close second with 35.4 per cent and the Conservatives followed with 20 per cent.

By Shari Narine

Windspeaker Contributor

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Author:Narine, Shari
Publication:Windspeaker
Geographic Code:1CALB
Date:Aug 15, 2016
Words:504
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