On June 12, about 59 polling stations will open on-reserve throughout the four northern ridings of Kenora-Rainy River, Thunder Bay-Atikokan, Thunder Bay-Superior North and Timmins-James Bay to elect their Members of Provincial Parliament (MPP’s).
First Nations people will also participate in the election throughout the municipal and urban areas across the province.
Ontario Election 2014 is important as far as determining who will form the next Ontario government as we prepare for development and investment in our treaty areas in the remote north.
Here we look back at the last provincial election for overall voter turnout, which communities had the highest percentage of voters, which parties First Nations voted for the most in each riding, and how First Nations can impact in the upcoming election. The data is based on election results from Elections Ontario (www.elections.on.ca) and are representative of voter turn out and outcomes of on-reserve polling stations only.
OVERALL VOTER TURN OUT
Looking back to Ontario Election 2011 - we have an indication of how First Nations are participating in provincial elections.
Across the four northern ridings of Kenora-Rainy River, Thunder Bay-Atikokan, Thunder Bay-Superior North and Timmins-James Bay - the average voter turn out of all electors (including all municipalities, First Nations) is 47 per cent.
However, when we look at the on-reserve polling stations voter turn out, First Nations are participating only at a 32 per cent rate as a group average (15 per cent below the riding averages).
HIGHEST VOTER TURN OUT ON-RESERVE
In terms of finding ‘pockets’ of on-reserve polling stations across the four northern ridings where there is a high voter turn out: we see that the majority are found in the Timmins-James Bay and Kenora-Rainy River ridings. Overall, First Nations in the Thunder Bay-Superior North riding had lower voter turn out rates than the two most northern ridings, and Fort William First Nation is the only on-reserve polling station in the Thunder Bay-Atikokan riding at 22 per cent.
ONTARIO ELECTION 2011 PARTY SUPPORT
In terms of party support across the four northern ridings polling stations on reserve, the general trend is for support of NDP candidates, followed by Liberals and Progressive Conservatives.
In the Kenora-Rainy River and Timmins-James Bay ridings, NDP support was maintained in the west with new MPP Sarah Campbell, and in the east with Gilles Bisson, MPP.
First Nations are voting within the riding trend in Thunder Bay-Superior North and Thunder Bay-Atikokan by the show of support for the NDP in the battle for the ridings by incumbent Liberal MPPs Minister of Northern Development and Mines Michael Gravelle and Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Bill Mauro. Both of these ridings had tight races (TB-SN by 2,654 votes and TB-A by 438 votes) between the Liberals (won) and the NDP.
WHERE FIRST NATIONS MAY HAVE INFLUENCE IN ONTARIO ELECTION 2014
Based on the trend of First Nations to support the NDP in the Kenora-Rainy River riding - continued First Nation voter turn out for the NDP across the riding is perhaps a critical factor for incumbent MPP Sarah Campbell. In the 2011 Ontario election the PCs trailed by 2,642 votes. A decline in First Nation support could change the riding.
Both the Thunder Bay-Atikokan and Thunder Bay-Superior North ridings could have significant room for First Nations influence in the outcomes between the Liberal incumbents and the NDP.
A coordinated push for either the NDP or Liberal candidate(s) in both ridings could result in either/or. The strength of First Nation influence on these ridings would also depend on the on-reserve and off-reserve/urban First Nation voters (numbers for which there is no official data) supporting one party and turning out to the polls on election day.
Alanna McKenzie is a member of Muskrat Dam First Nation (HBA Political Science, Lakehead University ‘99).
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