Liberals would set aside at least 10% of Manitoba seats for indigenous MLAs

If Manitoba voters elect a Liberal government, the voting system will be changed and 10 per cent of MLAs would be indigenous.

Leader Rana Bokhari promises indigenous people would get a 'seat at the table' under new voting system

Manitoba Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari speaks to reporters in front of the provincial legislature in Winnipeg on Thursday. (CBC)

If Manitoba voters elect a Liberal government, the voting system will be changed and at least 10 per cent of MLAs would be indigenous.

Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari announced Thursday at the Manitoba Legislature that the number of seats under proportional representation may increase from the current 57, but whatever the number, 10 per cent would be set aside for indigenous people, but for no other particular group.

"Obviously as a woman do I want gender parity. Absolutely. Absolutely I do, but I also recognize how hard it is to get females and women to run in political seats," Bokhari said. "Today, it's about partnership with our indigenous communities and that's why as they make 15 per cent of our population they will receive those seats."

A party spokesperson said 10 per cent is "a good starting point," adding that New Zealand saw an increase in the number of indigenous members in government by mandating a baseline, which increased indigenous participation in the political process itself. 

Bokhari said the exact formula for how Manitobans would elect MLAs would change from the current first-past-the-post system where elections are won and lost on a constituency basis.

Critics of first-past-the-post say a party can get a popular vote close to half, like the Progressive Conservatives in the 2011 Manitoba election, but barely gain a fraction of the seats, if they repeatedly lose close constituency battles.

The Liberal Leader will follow the federal government's lead on changing to a proportional representation system and would consult with indigenous leaders, academics and citizens.

"I wouldn't say [there is] any model [of proportional representation] that I like specifically. I won't even decide what it is, because I want to leave that to the experts," she said. "The federal government has taken a step towards moving towards that direction so we will also look to what they are doing."

"Taking a lead from [the federal government] and taking direction from them is not off the table, I think it's important."

If elected premier, Bokhari would not make a specific promise as to how many indigenous MLAs would sit in her cabinet.

"At this moment I'm building on it," Bokhari said.

In 2007, an overwhelming majority of voters in Ontario voted against electoral reform away from first-past-the-post voting in a province-wide referendum.

Bokhari said a referendum would not be held in Manitoba. She said she has no specific plans or programs to ensure more indigenous candidates, but said if elected she will communicate with indigenous leaders and with first nations community.

About the Author

Chris Glover

CBC News Reporter

Chris spent half a decade as a political reporter for CBC Winnipeg, but now that he's returned to his hometown of Toronto, he's excitedly sinking his teeth in all sorts of stories. Discovering new neighbourhoods isn't a 9 to 5 job and after years away, he has a lot to catch up on. When he's not running around the city with a camera, you can find him on the island soaking up the sun or riding the trails along the Don River.