'Indigenous Rock the Vote' claims victory as Winnipeg Centre turnout soars

Winnipeg's inner-city riding Winnipeg Centre saw a 26 per cent increase in voter turnout. The youth representative with Indigenous Rock the Vote says she loves that result.

Voter turnout increases 26 per cent in downtown Winnipeg

Preliminary numbers from Elections Canada for Winnipeg Centre show nearly 61 per cent of voters cast a ballot in Monday's federal election.

That's a 26 per cent increase over the 2011 federal election voter participation rate of 48.2 per cent.

Indigenous Rock the Vote is claiming some of the credit for that increase. About 17 per cent of residents in Winnipeg Centre are aboriginal, according to the last census. The volunteer-run organization, which grew out of Idle No More, held awareness campaigns and mobilized voters in Winnipeg's inner city throughout the campaign.

"We were doing everything that we could to mobilize," said Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie, Indigenous Rock the Vote's youth representative. "I love that the voter turnout skyrocketed." 
Justin Fontaine, 22, was a first-time voter in Monday's election. He said he supported Liberal candidate Robert-Falcon Ouellette. (CBC)

First-time voter and Winnipeg Centre resident Justin Fontaine, 22, said he cast a ballot for Robert-Falcon Ouellette because he saw himself reflected in the Liberal candidate. Ouellette soared to power in the downtown riding, winning with 55 per cent of the vote and ousting longtime NDP MP Pat Martin.

"I don't see a lot of indigenous people in politics," Fontaine said.

Watching Ouellette rise to power Monday night made him feel "wonderful."

"[Indigenous people] wanted Harper out and Harper is racist against indigenous," he said. "That's what I personally think."

When people vote before they turn 25, they tend to be voters for life, said Lavoie.

"The way democracy works is participation, and people are starting to realize that now," she said.

Lavoie hopes the Liberal government will be more open than the Conservatives to discussing issues important to Manitoba's indigenous community, such as problems on Shoal Lake 40 First Nation (the source of Winnipeg's drinking water), environmental issues and pipeline development.

"There are a lot of issues that we still have to work on with the Liberal government," she said. "We're happy that the Liberal government is going to be more susceptible to listening to us and including us and creating solutions."

Voter participation was also high in Manitoba's north, where turnout increased in Churchill-Keewatinook Aski by nearly 50 per cent.


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