Assembly of First Nations national chief Perry Bellegarde says he believes that First Nations voters are emerging as an electoral force in federal votes, singling out 51 ridings in the 2015 election where that presence influenced the final results.
He also claimed that voter turnout in 2015 among First Nations people was the highest for any federal election.
“The concept of dual citizenship, we’re embracing that,” he told The Hill Times in an extensive sit-down interview on Dec. 13.
The 51-riding figure comes from a list developed by the AFN prior to the 2015 federal elections. It was based on First Nations population figures and the perceived closeness of the individual races.
It’s hard to decipher, however, how significant the role Indigenous voters played in influencing the outcome in those ridings because of limited data.
There are 2016 census numbers showing the number of people in each riding who identify as Indigenous, which can help gauge the size of the Indigenous electorate. But there are no available statistics on the number of eligible Indigenous voters in each riding, Indigenous turnout, and who they voted for.
Elections Canada only tracks voting on First Nations reserves, but half of First Nations people live outside of such communities, and the on-reserve numbers are only categorized by province or territory.
But looking at the 2015 results and census data, it’s clear that the First Nations vote wielded significant influence in at least some of the 51 ridings.
For example, NDP MP Niki Ashton won the northern Manitoba riding of Churchill-Keewatinook Aski by only 912 votes. The Indigenous population of the riding sits at around 65,000 people
However, the impact was less pronounced in other contests listed by the AFN. In the Nova Scotia riding of Kings-Hants, Liberal MP and Treasury Board President Scott Brison cruised to re-election in 2015 by a margin of 24,349 votes. The riding’s Indigenous population is listed at around 4,385 people. It should be noted that Mr. Brison only edged the second-place candidate in 2011 by 1,173 votes.
Some ridings are also in a grey area, where credible date on the number of eligible First Nations electors, turnout, and which party they voted for are probably needed to reach a conclusion. Ridings with a modest Indigenous population with a modest margin of victory are likely to fall in this area.
Complicating this is that fact recent observations have also noted that First Nations voters are split in party support, but tend to back NDP and Liberal candidates, with the Grits increasing their share of Indigenous votes the most out of all parties in 2015.
The other variable to consider is First Nations turnout and the number of its eligible voters in each riding. There’s no data that paint a full picture, and turnout and total eligible voters—for Indigenous and non-Indigenous voters—varies riding-by-riding.
It’s generally noted by Elections Canada, however, that turnout is slightly less than the national average among Indigenous voters. On-reserve voting was at 61.5 per cent in the last election, but only half of First Nations in Canada live on reserves.
Here’s the list of 51 ridings also detailing the winning candidate, margin of victory in the election, the Indigenous population one year later, and overall turnout in the riding:
|No.||Riding||MP||Party||Margin of victory in 2015 election||Indigenous pop. by %/total from 2016 census||Overall turnout %|
|1.||Labrador, N.L.||Yvonne Jones||Liberal (incumbent)||7,099 votes||43.7%|
|2.||Long Range Mountains, N.L.||Gudie Hutchings||Liberal||25,804 votes||23.57%|
|3.||Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, N.S.||Darren Fisher||Liberal (gain)||17,650 votes||4.66%|
|4.||Kings-Hants, N.S.||Scott Brison||Liberal (incumbent)||24,349 votes||5.31%|
|5.||Sydney-Victoria, N.S.||Mark Eyking||Liberal (incumbent)||24,644 votes||10.66%|
|6.||Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou, Que.||Romeo Saganash||NDP (incumbent)||1,684 votes||38.15%|
|7.||Avignon-La Mitis-Matane-Matapedia, Que.||Remi Masse||Liberal (gain)||6,737 votes||5.55%|
|8.||Becancour-Nicolet-Saurel, Que.||Louis Plamondon||Bloc Québécois (incumbent)||8,205 votes||1.77%|
|9.||Gaspésie-Iles-de-la-Madeleine, Que.||Diane Lebouthillier||Liberal (gain)||2,460 votes||8.58%|
|10.||Longueuil-Saint-Hubert, Que.||Pierre Nantel||NDP (incumbent)||703 votes||0.98%|
|11.||Louis- Saint-Laurent, Que.||Gerard Deltell||Conservative (gain)||18,785 votes||3.19%|
|12.||Manicouagan, Que.||Marilene Gill||Bloc Québécois (gain)||4,995 votes||18.15%|
|13.||Montmagny-L’Islet-Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup, Que.||Bernard Genereux||Conservative (gain)||272 votes||1.02%|
|14.||Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing, Ont.||Carol Hughes||NDP (incumbent)||2,405 votes||19.17%|
|15.||Brantford-Brant, Ont.||Phil McColeman||Conservative (incumbent)||6,452 votes||5.43%|
|16.||Kenora, Ont.||Bob Nault||Liberal (gain)||498 votes||46.81%|
|17.||London North Centre, Ont.||Peter Fragiskatos||Liberal (gain)||12,437 votes||2.31%|
|18.||Mississauga-Malton, Ont.||Navdeep Bains||Liberal (gain)||14,464 votes||0.4%|
|19.||Niagara Centre, Ont.||Vance Badawey||Liberal (gain)||2,295 votes||3.63%|
|20.||Nipissing-Timiskaming, Ont.||Anthony Rota||Liberal (gain)||11,032 votes||11.95%|
|21.||Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.||Terry Sheehan||Liberal (gain)||5,967 votes||12.68%|
|22.||Scarborough-Guildwood, Ont.||John McKay||Liberal (incumbent)||14,059 votes||1.18%|
|23.||Thunder Bay-Superior North, Ont.||Patty Hajdu||Liberal (gain)||9,730 votes||15.84%|
|24.||Timmins-James Bay, Ont.||Charlie Angus||NDP (incumbent)||3,034 votes||19.35%|
|25.||Churchill-Keewatinook Aski, Man.||Niki Ashton||NDP (incumbent)||912 votes||76.33%|
|26.||Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa, Man.||Robert Sopuck||Conservative (incumbent)||7,000 votes||26.51%|
|27.||Elmwood- Transcona, Man.||Daniel Blaikie||NDP (gain)||61 votes||13.59%|
|28.||Winnipeg Centre, Man.||Robert-Falcon Ouellette||Liberal (gain)||8,981 votes||18.51%|
|29.||Winnipeg North, Man.||Kevin Lamoureux||Liberal (incumbent)||18,209 votes||17.89%|
|30.||Winnipeg South Centre, Man.||Jim Carr||Liberal (gain)||16,891 votes||7.65%|
|31.||Battlefords-Lloydminster, Sask.||Gerry Ritz||Conservative (incumbent)||14,617 votes||24.08%|
|32.||Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River, Sask.||Georgina Jolibois||NDP (gain)||82 votes||70.91%|
|33.||Prince Albert, Sask.||Randy Hoback||Conservative (incumbent)||8,429 votes||30.63%|
|34.||Regina-Lewvan, Sask.||Erin Weir||NDP (gain)||132 votes||7.64%|
|35.||Regina-Qu’Appelle, Sask.||Andrew Scheer||Conservative (incumbent)||5,342 votes||20.98%|
|36.||Regina-Wascana, Sask.||Ralph Goodale||Liberal (incumbent)||10,621 votes||7.77%|
|37.||Saskatoon West, Sask.||Sheri Benson||NDP (gain)||2,520 votes||18.5%|
|38.||Edmonton Griesbach, Alta.||Kerry Diotte||Conservative||2,848 votes||10.06%|
|39.||Cariboo-Prince George, B.C.||Todd Doherty||Conservative||2,767 votes||16.64%|
|40.||Courtenay-Alberni, B.C.||Gord Johns||NDP (gain)||6,868 votes||9.36%|
|41.||Cowichan-Malahat-Langford, B.C.||Alistair MacGregor||NDP (incumbent)||7,515 votes||9.59%|
|42.||Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon, B.C.||Jati Sidhu||Liberal (gain)||1,038 votes||11.54%|
|43.||Nanaimo-Ladysmith, B.C.||Sheila Malcolmson||NDP (gain)||6,898 votes||8.47%|
|44.||Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke, B.C.||Randall Garrison||NDP (incumbent)||5,214 votes||5.63%|
|45.||Skeena-Bulkley Valley, B.C.||Nathan Cullen||NDP (incumbent)||11,595 votes||34.14%|
|46.||South Okanagan-West Kootenay, B.C.||Richard Cannings||NDP (gain)||4,952 votes||6.84%|
|47.||Surrey Centre, B.C.||Randeep Sarai||Liberal (gain)||6,479 votes||3.77%|
|48.||Surrey-Newton, B.C.||Sukh Dhaliwal||Liberal (gain)||13,267 votes||2.35%|
|49.||North Island-Powell River, B.C.||Rachel Blaney||NDP (gain)||8,500 votes||12.03%|
|50.||Yukon||Larry Bagnell||Liberal (gain)||5,959 votes||23.34%|
|51.||Northwest Territories||Michael McLeod||Liberal (gain)||3,389 votes||50.71%|
The influence of the First Nations vote in 2015 is hard to gauge, but considering statistics published by Elections Canada following the 2015 elections, and population figures from the 2016 census, it certainly that Indigenous voters are bound to pack a greater punch in federal elections as time goes on. Population is growing, and voter turnout will rise again if it follows the trend of the last decade.
Indigenous electorate is growing, and on-reserve First Nations voters are casting ballots in increasingly higher numbers
The population of Indigenous people in Canada grew 42.5 per cent since 2006, more than four times the growth rate of the non-Aboriginal population in the same time. There are 1.67 million Indigenous people in Canada, accounting for about 5 per cent of the total population.
The Indigenous population is young, and the federal government projects that sometime in the next two decades, the Indigenous population will grow to 2.5 million in the country. About half of First Nations, overwhelmingly the largest group of Indigenous peoples in Canada, live on reserves while half do not.
There has also been a general upward trend in the number of on-reserve First Nations voters in recent elections. In the 2004 elections, on-reserve First Nations turnout was at 40.3 per cent, rising to 48.8 per cent in 2006. Although turnout sank to 42.4 per cent in 2008, it rose to 47.4 per cent in the Conservatives’ majority victory in 2011 before peaking in 2015.
The 2015 election marked the smallest turnout gap between on-reserve First Nations voters and the rest of Canada since Elections Canada began monitoring it in 2004.
The Hill Times