Chiefs of the Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick are urging members of their communities to vote either Green or Liberal on Monday, depending on which party has the best chance of winning in their ridings.
The six chiefs based their recommendations on the results of a survey they got back from three of the five political parties. The Progressive Conservatives and People’s Alliance didn’t respond to the survey, which sought party positions on a dozen Wolastoqey issues.
“The results are in, and the Greens and the Liberals are the two parties most aligned with our priorities,” Oromocto Chief Shelley Sabattis said in a news release from the organization.
The chiefs said some of the most competitive ridings in the provincial election fall within the Wolastoqey Nation. They urged community members to vote strategically.
“Our assessment is that voting Green and Liberal can make a difference in select ridings,” St. Mary’s Chief Allan Polchies said.
Most ridings where community members can vote are seeing Liberals and Progressive Conservatives in two-way fights, the release said.
But it said Greens, Liberals and Progressive Conservatives are in a three-way race in Fredericton North, the riding that encompasses St. Mary’s First Nation.
“The Green Party has strong candidate with a background in business and he is challenging the Liberals and Conservatives,” said Polchies, praising the “extra effort” by both Liberals and Greens to respond to First Nations issues.
The survey dealt with issues such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, forestry management, tax agreements, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action, officially changing the name of the St. John River back to Wolastoq and revenue-sharing from Crown land royalties.
The First Nations leaders have also been pushing for an inquiry into the New Brunswick justice system following the deaths of Chantel Moore and Rodney Levi, as well as the not guilty verdict and Crown’s decision not to appeal the Brady Francis case.
Earlier this week, the chiefs released a report card based on the survey.
“The Liberals, Greens and New Democrats all responded and all were given top marks for their replies,” said Madawaska First Nation Chief Patricia Bernard.
But the Greens and Liberals are the most likely of the three to have seats in the next legislature, the release suggested.
The six Wolastoqey communities sit within ridings all down the valley of the Wolastoq, or St. John River, which includes Carleton-Victoria, Edmundston-Madwaska Centre, Fredericton North, Fredericton West-Hanwell, Oromocto-Lincoln-Fredericton and Carleton-York.
Historically, some of these ridings have been won by narrow margins by either the Liberal Party or the Progressive Conservative Party.
The statement said about 50 per cent of Wolastoqiyik live off reserve, and the chiefs urged those people to vote strategically in their ridings as well, naming the Greens, Liberals and the NDP as potential choices.
The chiefs said it is important to vote so the First Nations voice can be heard.
“Voting is a sacred duty,” said Kingsclear Chief Gabriel Atwin.
Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn Inc., representing Mi’kmaq chiefs, also sent a survey to the five major parties, and all but the Progressive Conservatives responded.
A spokesperson for the organization said it has released each party’s answers to the seven-question survey and are hoping members of the Mi’kmaq nation will make informed decisions on who to vote for based on the answers.