Duringthe recent election campaigns for the Cree leadership positions, both on a local level and national levels, I noticed something that was raised as an issue by only one candidate. The issue was the lack of time to campaign.
This, I believe, is a very serious issue. Without a time period in which to campaign, Cree voters are not aware of positions but rather of gossip and reputations only. This leaves a lot of room for rumours that may or may not affect your choice of a candidate. I know of one instance where there was a persistent rumour that a certain candidate wasn’t running. It came as a surprise to some voters to find that person’s name on the ballot. They might not have voted for that person as they thought he wasn’t really a candidate. This mistaken impression could have been responsible for someone else winning.
This in itself is good reason to extend the time between the nomination deadline, the acceptance by candidates and the actual voting day.
Another story told of a candidate who, presumably caught up in the spirit of civic duty, took the ballot box to people’s homes via car so they could vote. Unfortunately, this candidate won and some voters were outraged; this person was disqualified. Another candidate in the same election ended up being disqualified just for touching the ballot box.
And of course there were the usual stories of campaigning on election day by other candidates in other elections. Perhaps here I should mention that the stories were about more than one election. But all were incidents that tell of the desperation of candidates to reach voters.
As voters, we require a period of time to mull over our choice but also to question the candidates involved.
What do they stand for and why are they running? Is it the high salaries, political power and perks, or have they concrete plans for the Crees? Are the rumours true or false?
Without this information we are just shooting in the dark sometimes. Note that I do not say all the time. The Cree Nation and communities of James Bay are still small enough that we can know most candidates by reputation at least and have some idea of what they stand for. But Crees have a rapidly growing population and it is foreseeable in the future that we will not know all the candidates.
I will point out two things. Our columnist and photographer, Neil Diamond, a decidedly non-politician candidate, came out of nowhere and got 90 votes, and only 40 per cent of all eligible Cree voters actually went and voted. In my mind, their were a lot of unknowns running for deputy chief as far as politics is concerned. I would have liked to know more about their views, and other Crees have expressed the same feeling.
The Crees deserved a chance to hear what all candidates have to say.
I propose that the Cree Nation and communities follow the example of Wemindji and change the voting timetable to have an extended period of time for people to campaign (Wemindji has two weeks). In this way we all can vote based on knowledge, not hearsay.