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The Nisga'a Treaty

The Nisga'a Treaty: Polling Dynamics and Political Communication in Comparative Context

Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 194
  • Book Info
    The Nisga'a Treaty
    Book Description:

    "This insightful book takes the reader inside the workings of government, warts and all. It tells a good story and informs at the same time." - Doug McArthur, Simon Fraser University

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-0318-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-6)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 7-10)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 11-12)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. 13-16)

    This book focuses on the adoption of the Nisga’a Treaty and the work of Australia’s Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation. The book has two main purposes, the first of which is to advance our understanding of these historically important, contemporary efforts to realign relations between Indigenous peoples and the larger society. The Nisga’a Treaty case study necessarily takes us into a consideration of what, in more generic terms, might be called the marketing stage of the policy process. In pursuing this first purpose, the book is essentially a political ethnography that takes the reader “backstage” with the key political actors involved....

  5. Chapter One: Introduction
    (pp. 17-28)

    The vigorously contested Nisga’a Treaty was a matter of vital importance to First Nations, to the then Premier and his New Democratic Party government, and to other British Columbians. Its importance stemmed, in part, from the fact that it was the first treaty to be successfully negotiated in the province in the modern era and, as such, in many quarters was viewed (at least initially) as a policy template for the fifty other treaties to be negotiated in its wake. Its importance also derived from the severely beleaguered government’s belief in the moral rectitude of its position and the resultant...

  6. Chapter Two: “It’s One of the Things I Never Know If I Should Put On My Résumés”: The Political Climate
    (pp. 29-36)

    British Columbia politics are normally very intense and often highly polarized. The Nisga’a Treaty became highly politicized and is still highly politically charged. Indeed, some of those involved, including non-partisan public servants and some who are no longer in government, believe that they paid a price for their involvement;¹ others know that they did; others fear that they will. Even six years after the events, some individuals were reluctant to be interviewed or chose to remain anonymous or declined to grant permission to use some of their remarks, due to fears of politically motivated repercussions. As one interviewee (# 67212)...

  7. Chapter Three: “Like Shovelling Money off the Back of a Truck”
    (pp. 37-48)

    Dick Morris is the polling advisor credited with salvaging a second term in office for Bill Clinton as President of the United States. His book,Behind the Oval Office: Getting Re-elected Against All Odds,which Premier Glen Clark had read, focuses in depth on polling, wedge issues, “spin,” and strategy for winning back lost political support.¹ The similarities between Morris’s approach and that adopted by the Clark government are striking. Although people among the “inner circle” and “key associates” said that Morris’s book was by no means the “Bible” of the Nisga’a campaign, several of them had read parts of...

  8. Chapter Four: “It’s Not About Politics”: The Ad Campaign up Close
    (pp. 49-66)

    In the previous chapters, we have seen unfold a paradox wherein the Nisga’a campaign was fuelled both by desperation politics and by the fervent belief of many of the main protagonists that ratifying the Treaty was the morally and economically right thing to do. In this chapter, we examine the advertising campaign itself more closely. In so doing, we see some of the tensions inherent in that paradox come to the fore, as the paradox itself comes into bolder relief.

    Ad man Peter Lanyon’s ideas shaped the content of the television ad campaign. A deeply spiritual person and practicing Anglican,...

  9. Chapter Five: Questionnaire Construction and Content
    (pp. 67-74)

    What was the nature of the polling that shaped the advertising and public information campaign described in the previous chapters? To that question we turn now.

    As far as public opinion polling goes, what public opinion gets registered with decision makers depends, of course, upon what vehicles are used for tapping public opinion and, if polling is chosen, upon what questions questionnaire designers are willing to ask.

    Doug McArthur was convinced of the need to do an advertising campaign supported by polling. Said he,

    We were painfully aware that a lot of people were of the view that the best...

  10. Chapter Six: The Polling Results and Their Use
    (pp. 75-82)

    A brief and necessarily highly selective overview of the polling findings¹ is provided here. Differences in reporting formats (e.g., collapsing “moderately supportive” and “strongly supportive” into “supportive”) and the absence of the questionnaire in some of the archived reports place limits on my ability to make generalizations about the findings.

    One generalization that can be made from the polling data is that results on many of the questions fluctuated but did not change drastically over time. Of particular note is the fact that the Treaty had the support of a slight majority of British Columbians shortly after it was signed,...

  11. Chapter Seven: Gatekeeping, Analysis, and Interpretation of the Data in the Inner Circle
    (pp. 83-96)

    The possibility of “gatekeeping,” or the withholding of information, is a vital matter implicit in Blumer’s call for researchers to work backwards from decision makers in the study of public opinion. It was a key concern in the present research.

    As noted earlier, the Nisga’a Treaty was the main political preoccupation of the provincial government during the period under consideration. Not surprisingly, therefore, much secrecy surrounded the polling results. However, the gatekeeping that occurred within the inner circle was minor. Among those key players, there was a rather thorough airing of the data.

    Deputy Minister McArthur was described by more...

  12. Chapter Eight: Processing Public Opinion on Reconciliation in Australia
    (pp. 97-120)

    In this chapter, I place the British Columbia case study in a comparative, international context by examining the processing of public opinion on Indigenous issues in Australia. The Australian case study used is that involving the official reconciliation process there. It was led by the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation (CAR), an independent body that was appointed by the Commonwealth (federal) government. My Australian research, like the Canadian, was driven by the desire to understand public opinion, as Herbert Blumer advocated, “from the other end.” The purpose of this case study is to expand the basis for making generalizations about how...

  13. Chapter Nine: Summary and Conclusion
    (pp. 121-132)

    At the outset, I noted that the research reported herein is guided by certain premises loosely derived from symbolic interactionist theory and social constructionist theory (Blumer, 1969; Holstein & Miller, 2003; Spector & Kitsuse, 1977). The first premise was that there is nothing automatic about the registering of public opinion with decision makers. Rather, we need to problematize each aspect of the process of gathering, interpreting, and registering public opinion. For instance, public opinion findings are not just a product (a report) handed to decision makers. Instead, the registering of public opinion with decision makers is a social process influenced...

  14. Postscript: The Impact of the Nisga’a Treaty in Northwestern British Columbia
    (pp. 133-136)

    Debate on the Nisga’a Treaty included much escalated rhetoric, including dire economic predictions. In that context, it is worth noting that in the northwestern British Columbia community of Terrace, described by one observer as “the hotbed of protest against the Treaty,” an accommodation between the town and the Nisga’a has been reached since the Treaty was signed.

    The Greater Terrace area (population 20,000 in the 2001 Census of Canada) is centred on the town of Terrace, about an hour’s drive south of New Aiyansh. Statistic after statistic on the website of the Terrace Economic Development Authority¹ points to a very...

  15. Appendix 1: Selected Provisions of the Nisga’a Treaty
    (pp. 137-140)
  16. Appendix 2: Chronology of British Columbia Events
    (pp. 141-144)
  17. Appendix 3: Opinion Research Conducted on Nisga’a Issue for BC Government or New Democratic Party
    (pp. 145-146)
  18. Appendix 4: Schedule of BC Government Newspaper and Magazine Advertisements on the Nisga’a Treaty
    (pp. 147-156)
  19. Appendix 5: Content of Nisga’a Treaty TV Ad Featuring David Suzuki
    (pp. 157-158)
  20. Appendix 6: Two British Columbia Polling Questionnaires on the Nisga’a Treaty
    (pp. 159-164)
  21. Appendix 7: Methodology
    (pp. 165-168)
  22. Appendix 8: Interview Guide for Polling Interviews
    (pp. 169-170)
  23. Appendix 9: Interview Guide for Advertising Interviews
    (pp. 171-174)
  24. Appendix 10: Substantive Topics in Australian Telephone Survey, January 28–February 14, 2000
    (pp. 175-176)
  25. Appendix 11: The Australian “Draft Document for Reconciliation” (Section A)
    (pp. 177-178)
  26. Appendix 12: The Final Australian “Document Toward Reconciliation”
    (pp. 179-180)
  27. References
    (pp. 181-188)
  28. Index
    (pp. 189-194)