CORNER BROOK — Kevin Barnes held off a strong challenge from his fellow candidates to emerge victorious as western vice-chief of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band.
Barnes, who was the incumbent vice-chief in the region heading into the band’s first election, earned 1,103 votes once ballots were tallied Tuesday. Keith Cormier got 957 votes, while Perry Young earned 599. The results didn’t include all advance polling and mail-in ballots, which weren’t fully tallied as of press time.
The candidates were separated by less than 50 votes for much of the evening before Barnes pulled away and he credited Cormier and Young for running a close campaign.
Speaking just after learning of his election as vice-chief and with a throng of cheering supporters clearly audible in the background, he said he was proud of the result in an election which saw plenty of voter turnout.
“For me, it’s a vote of confidence in my years with FNI (Federation of Newfoundland Indians) and Qalipu,” Barnes said. “I feel proud that the people have voted and said they support me.”
After having spent the last four years as western vice-chief, he said he plans to work with the new council towards his primary goal of ensuring registration for all members ahead of the looming Nov. 30 deadline for applications for band membership
“I want to make sure the ship keeps going and everyone that’s eligible to be a member, is a member,” he said. “Before we start looking at going after land and hunting rights, as some people have said, we need to get everybody on board. That’s my goal.”
Barnes expects there will be little time to reflect on the victory before he and the rest of the council sit down for orientation sessions, followed by getting down to the very serious business of charting the course for the band’s future.
“It’s a tough climb,” he said. “It’s easy to be on the outside talking about stuff, but when you have to be on the inside making decisions, that’s when you separate the crew. There are some tough decisions still to be made, we need good people and I think we have them in this group.”