Independent MLA proposes four Indigenous seats in Manitoba legislature

Indigenous people have been “let down” by the electoral system and a way to fix it would be having better representation in the province’s legislature, says Steven Fletcher, and independent MLA for the riding of Assiniboia in Manitoba.

The Indigenous Representation and Related Amendments Act 2019 is to being introduced Monday.

It calls for four Indigenous seats in addition to the 57 seats that exist in the province.

“In general terms there would be one seat in the north, one seat in rural southern Manitoba and two seats in Winnipeg (Winnipeg North and Winnipeg South),” the document reads.

To pay for the new seats, he says all MLA salaries and expenses should be cut back 7.5 per cent to maintain current spending levels.

Support for the act would mean MLAs from the Progressive Conservatives, NDP and Liberals would vote themselves a pay and expense cut.

“I am hopeful that the government and the opposition will give this bill their due consideration,” Fletcher said.

The Legislative Assembly Act would be amended to allow each individual Indigenous representative to consider themselves a political party.

Fletcher said the act was inspired by New Zealand’s electoral system, which guarantees Maori a certain number of seats in parliament.

Currently seven out of 120 seats are occupied by Maori politicians.

“The idea is that with four seats created for indigenous representation in our legislative body, the system will do better for all Manitobans,” the document says.

After being introduced today, it’s on the order sheet to be advanced to second reading.

“Assuming it passes a vote on second reading, it will go to Standing Policy Committee where it will undergo scrutiny and be opened to public consultation,” Fletcher said.

“If the bill does not go for second reading, the government who votes against it will need to have a really good reason to explain why they won’t allow it to proceed.” 

Any Manitoban, regardless of their ethnicity, could vote in their constituency or in an Indigenous constituency, but not both says the proposed legislation.

Fletcher is a former Member of Parliament and served under Stephen Harper as a cabinet minister as the minister of State (Transport) before switching to provincial politics where he joined the Conservatives.

He was removed from caucus after a series of disagreements with leader Brian Pallister and is the leader of the Manitoba Party in the province.




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