At least 18 indigenous candidates will run between the Manitoba New Democratic, Liberal and Progressive Conservative parties in the upcoming provincial election — a number up slightly from the 2011 election.
The NDP intend to field at least six indigenous candidates (up two from the last election), while the Liberals aim to run a minimum of seven (up one from 2011) and the Tories are running at least five indigenous candidates.
On Tuesday, University of Winnipeg associate vice-president of indigenous affairs Wab Kinew threw his hat in the ring for the NDP. Kinew, who is also a former CBC journalist, is running uncontested in the Fort Rouge constituency in Winnipeg.
A few days later Nahanni Fontaine, the Manitoba government special advisor on aboriginal women's issues, announced she, too, would be stepping up to the plate for the NDP. Fontaine is hoping to take over for Gord Mackintosh in the St. Johns constituency, following the justice minister's announcement last week that he would be pulling out of the race.
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Kinew and Fontaine join Assiniboia candidate Joe McKellep, finance minister and Selkirk MLA Greg Dewar, The Pas representative Amanda Lathlin and Kevin Chief, who is the current jobs and economy minister and MLA for Point Douglas.
Chief is up against indigenous candidate Althea Guiboche. Also known as the "Bannock Lady," Guiboche is running for the Liberals in Point Douglas.
Guiboche said she is hopeful having more indigenous voices at the table will make a difference.
"Get our people ahead a little bit, get Manitoba into honouring all their people — everybody counts," she said.
Six other indigenous candidates are running for the Liberals across the province, including Jordan Fleury in Riding Mountain, Judy Klassen in Kewatinook, Leslie Beck in Flin Flon, Noel Bernier in St. Johns, Stefan Jones in Selkirk and Tyler Duncan in The Pas.
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Niigaan Sinclair, acting head of the native studies department at the University of Manitoba, said regardless of the party, having more indigenous candidates involved will influence public policy.
"It's not a slam-dunk vote — you still have to deliver the policies," Sinclair, who has shown support for Kinew and Guiboche, said Friday.
"I certainly see … it being advantageous [for any party] to appeal to indigenous voters, to include indigenous people."
Sinclair added that having more indigenous candidates will put party leaders on alert to include indigenous issues in their platforms.
The Manitoba Progressive Conservatives say they will run at least five indigenous candidates, including:
- Bob Lagasse — Dawson Trail.
- Sarah Langevin — Elmwood.
- Alan Lagimodiere — Selkirk.
- Belinda Squance — Minto.
- Edna Nabess — Keewatinook.
Manitoba's 41st provincial election is scheduled for April 19. Candidates have until March 29 to file nomination papers.