Manitoba Natives may have their own political party to vote for in provincial elections this spring.

“Given the results of past elections, it is potentially possible that we could hold a balance of power,” said Robert Wavey, executive director of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

The assembly has been discussing the possibility of forming a Native party for more than a year. If it forms, the party would have a platform based on traditional Aboriginal values, environmental protection, respect for treaty and First Nations rights, and support for Native-friendly resource and development policies.

With northern ridings composed of 30 to 40-per-cent Aboriginal voters, organizers predict a First Nations party could gain six to 12 seats in the 57-seat Manitoba legislature. If successful, the party could expand to represent Natives across the country.

Chief Jerry Fontaine of the Sagkeen First Nation said in a Windspeaker article that Aboriginal interests aren’t a priority for any of the existing parties, even though there are four Native MLAs in Manitoba now. “I don’t know that we have any influence now,” he said. “If you look at it now, who would have thought a regional party (the Bloc Québécois) would be the official federal opposition? You can exert a lot of influence in a minority government.”