THUNDER BAY – Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) is a political territorial organization representing 49 First Nation communities throughout the province of Ontario. The moves by the Ontario Liberals, and Premier Dalton McGuinty in the north over the Far North Act and the appointment of a “Ring of Fire” co-ordinator have infuriated NAN leadership.
The Premier is likely counting on First Nations to use their traditional protest methods, information blockages of roads and railways, and protests on the front lawn of Queen’s Park.
As a political territorial organization, perhaps it is time for NAN to get more political. There are about 45,000 people living either on, or off northern reserves. Of those, likely at least 20,000 people are going to be eligible to vote in the next provincial election.
If NAN leadership were to organize a voter drive, and get their members out to vote in the next provincial election, the political ramifications would likely be the replacement of both Liberal MPPs in Northern Ontario.
In the last provincial election, Bill Mauro won by a handful of votes. A turnout of Aboriginal voters of even 1,000 individuals would likely see a new MPP elected in Thunder Bay Atikokan.
In Thunder Bay Superior North, Minister of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry Michael Gravelle won his seat in 2003 with 72% of the vote. It was the largest majority in Ontario.
However in 2007, Gravelle saw his vote fall by 23% and the NDP came a close second. Gravelle’s margin of victory was down from 17,390 votes to 2,436 votes.
An active participation by NAN members to vote in the 2011 election could see the Minister defeated.
If NAN choose the political path, taking their frustration with the Ontario Liberals to the voting booth, a needed first step would be for NAN to build alliances with either the Progressive Conservatives or the New Democrats.
It wouldn’t be enough for NAN to simply vote against the Liberal MPPs, but they would have to vote for a party that NAN leaders could secure assurances that NAN issues would be addressed.
It would also be critical should NAN choose the political path for NAN leaders to make sure that both Bill Mauro and Minister Michael Gravelle are informed of the decision and told that NAN is getting more political.
That way, Mauro and Gravelle could be placed in the position of seeing that poor moves by Premier McGuinty are going to lead to political consequences. The two MPPs could end up pushing to open Dalton McGuinty’s ears to the fact that he could lose his two Northwestern Ontario MPPs.
Taking political action via the ballot box would likely be far more effective than a protest on the front lawn of Queen’s Park. Building a Bloc-NAN voting machine would assure NAN leaders of the political power at both the federal and provincial levels.
A move likely far more effective than blocking a roadway.