NDP platform receives full marks from Assembly of First Nations

The Assembly of First Nations has released its assessment of federal party platforms, giving the NDP full marks for what it calls a "comprehensive response to First Nations priorities."

Liberal and Green policies are judged lacking in revitalizing indigenous languages

National Chief Perry Bellegarde has released the Assembly of First Nations assessment of the four main federal party platforms as they relate to First Nation priorities. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

The Assembly of First Nations has released its assessment of the four main federal parties' platforms, giving the NDP full marks for what it calls a "comprehensive response to First Nations priorities."

"We want to ensure First Nations across Canada get all the facts before voting, to ensure they have the proper information to make an informed decision," said National Chief Perry Bellegarde in a written statement Thursday.

The AFN's assessment comes as the parties make a final push as their campaigns enter the final weekend before the general election on Monday, with the Liberals and Conservatives surging ahead in a two-way race.

Bellegarde said each party was asked for a formal response to the priorities laid out by the AFN, and the Conservative Party had yet to reply.

The assessment covers six broad themes: 

  • Strengthening First Nations, families and communities.
  • Sharing and equitable funding.
  • Upholding rights.
  • Respecting the environment.
  • Revitalizing indigenous languages.
  • Truth and reconciliation. 

According to the AFN, the NDP's platform provides a "comprehensive response" in all six areas.

By contrast, the Conservative Party's platform provides an "inadequate" or "incomplete" response in all of the six priorities.

The Liberal Party's platform gets full marks in five of the six categories, receiving "incomplete" marks for not doing enough to support the revitalization of indigenous languages.

The Green Party's platform provides a "comprehensive" response in four of the six priorities, but is deemed "partial or incomplete" when it comes to funding and support for indigenous languages.

Bellegarde to work with 'whoever' is elected

The Harper government's relationship with the AFN soured following the abrupt departure of former national chief Shawn Atleo, who resigned amid complaints from chiefs that he had sided with the Conservatives over a proposed First Nations Education Act.

In an interview on CBC's The House, Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper was asked if he thought the new national chief, who opposed the act, was prepared to work with him.

"I'm not sure whether he is or not," Harper said on Sept. 19. "Unfortunately, some in the AFN reversed their position [on the First Nations Education Act]. I think Mr. Bellegarde was one of those."

Today, Bellegarde said he was prepared to work with whichever party leader wins next Monday.

"I will work with whoever is elected Oct. 19 to close the gap in quality of life between First Nations people and Canadians," Bellegarde said.

"It's up to First Nations and all Canadians to decide who that will be."

Voter turnout up in the territories

Elections Canada said an estimated 3.6 million people voted during four days of advance polls running from last Friday to Thanksgiving Monday, representing a 71 per cent increase over three days of advance polling in 2011.

Several ridings in B.C. and Ontario led the country for the number of votes cast at advance polls over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Voter turnout during advance polls was also high in the territories, according to preliminary figures released by Elections Canada on Wednesday.​

In Nunavut the voter turnout more than tripled, with 1,109 people casting a ballot during four days of advance polls compared with 355 who voted during three days of advance polling in 2011.

Voter turnout in the Northwest Territories more than doubled, going from 1,262 ballots cast in 2011 to 2,746 this year.

Yukon also saw an increase in turnout with 3,013 people voting over four days, compared with 1,578 electors who voted in the last federal election.

The AFN has identified 51 ridings with the potential to wield great influence in the electoral outcome.

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