Photo by Whitehorse Star
Photo by Whitehorse Star
After nearly two decades as MP for the Yukon, Larry Bagnell has more than a bit of advice for his successor, Brendan Hanley.
Bagnell took some time last week to share some thoughts as to what Hanley can expect as an MP after he’s sworn in.
“First of all, forget about sleep,” Bagnell said bluntly.
Especially since the pandemic has struck, Bagnell said, he has had less and less time to devote to something as simple as a good night’s sleep. But then, he also has a reputation as being the hardest-working MP in the nation, as voted by his former peers.
“With Hanley, he’s been accustomed to the 24/7 grind trying to manage the pandemic,” Bagnell said. “So I’m sure he’s used to it and has created a routine that works for him.”
Bagnell, in fact, was more than willing to share a lengthy list of concepts that Hanley will learn fast enough.
He had a list of 10 points -– with sub-heads – that Hanley can expect. Some were obvious, others less so.
“Being an MP is like being a bumblebee,” Bagnell said unexpectedly. “It’s not supposed to be able to fly, but it does.
“As an MP you have so many things to do that it should be impossible, yet you do it.”
A key lesson to learn, Bagnell said, is to decide from among that infinite number of things to do what you can do.
After that, Hanley will need to find a way to explain what he can’t do, and why.
“And you need to pick your battles. You can’t do everything.
“Don’t upset people unnecessarily,” Bagnell added. “He needs to remember that people expect to be heard and listened to.
“They don’t expect you to agree with them – in fact they expect that you won’t – but they do expect to be heard.
“Hanley also needs to hire a good team.”
Surrounding yourself with competent people will reduce the stress of the job, he explained.
The best bet for Hanley to become comfortable in his new role, Bagnell said, is not to strive too hard to be anything more than a backbencher for at least an initial period.
There are so many rules and traditions, many of them obscure, that Hanley should welcome the chance to simply learn how to be an MP first without having to worry about additional responsibilities such as being an assistant to a minister, or being tapped to head a ministry, Bagnell said.
Learn the basics first, he stressed.
Bagnell said that will give Hanley time to try to wade through the endless mountains of documents and correspondence and briefings that comes with the job.
“But it will give you a good education in everything, and there’s a lot of expertise available to you,” he said thoughtfully. “Take advantage of it.”
Among those basics is to develop a rapport with both his Liberal colleagues and opposition MPs. Hanley is going to need support if he is to accomplish anything for the Yukon, Bagnell said.
“Don’t promise the moon, either,” he cautioned. “You can’t win everything.
“And definitely never embarrass a minister,” Bagnell stressed.
Interestingly, Bagnell also emphasized that Hanley needs to learn quickly that he can’t have direct contact with government staff in the bureaucracy.
That’s akin to exerting pressure on any given bureaucrat, which is not allowed.
“There are very complex rules for an MP,” he stressed. “I don’t think most MPs know them all.”
Bagnell’s advice to Hanley stretched to some travelling tips.
He will need to have an overnight bag permanently packed for last-minute, unexpected events.
If it can be a carry-on, that’s perfect, Bagnell recommended.
Hanley should carry two cell phones, extra chargers of different types that will be compatible with multiple plane models, and a battery backup as well. Multiple batteries aren’t a bad idea either.
“There’s a lot of travel and driving. MPs who are from the Ottawa area might have the luxury of going home for lunch, but it’s unlikely Hanley will.”
Bagnell used to spend about 12 hours on air travel to return home, which encompassed multiple airports.
Like Bagnell, Hanley has a young family, but the outgoing MP was quick to say one thing he wouldn’t offer advice on is how to balance his work and personal life.
“I won’t do that because I was terrible at it,” he said readily with wry laughter.
“He might have mastered it already, with his schedule as chief medical officer of health over the last two years.”
Bagnell has said he regrets the little time he’s had to spend with his two children.
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