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Membertou First Nation's Chief Terry Paul looks to continue 40-year run in this year's election

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Election Day on Cape Breton’s Membertou First Nation was Thursday, with the community’s incumbent Chief Terry Paul looking to continue a record-setting run that has already lasted four decades.

For much of the spring, election signs have been popping up around Membertou – one of Canada’s most prosperous First Nations communities.

There are a number of candidates for the community’s band council and at least three in the running for chief.

Paul is being challenged by Edwin Laporte – who also ran for chief in Membertou’s 2020 election – as well as Austin Christmas.

Paul was first elected chief of Membertou First Nation in 1984.

Tom Urbaniak, a political scientist at Cape Breton University, said should he be re-elected, it would continue what has already been a remarkable legacy in a community that has seen significant growth under Paul’s leadership.

"It's almost unheard of across Canada in any government to have a head of government who has served for four decades, four decades-plus, as would be the case if Chief Paul is re-elected tonight," Urbaniak said on Thursday afternoon. “So, he leaves a legacy of not just longevity but of course of tremendous economic, social, educational development."

However, Urbaniak pointed out that despite Paul’s historic run, Membertou's elections have a history of being competitive.

Urbaniak said the emergence of other strong candidates over time should be seen as positive.

“That’s a sign, to me, of a vibrant and vigorous democracy," Urbaniak said. “We can’t forget that this vibrant and vigorous democracy, and the very worthy challengers that have stepped up over the years, have contributed to Membertou’s growth, development and the sense of entrepreneurship that is part of the DNA and part of the political culture of Membertou First Nation, and something we can all emulate.”

The results of the 2024 Membertou election are expected to be known by Thursday evening or Friday morning.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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