Whitehorse Daily Star

Bagnell: There's no greater honour'

Liberals didn't have to chew their nails this time.

By Whitehorse Star on June 29, 2004

Liberals didn't have to chew their nails this time.

Instead of worrying as the results continued to show their champion in arrears until the final few polls, Yukon Liberal supporters casually floated into last night's victory party after polls closed and watched the national results on TV.

The gang of Grits had to catch snippets here and there of how candidate Larry Bagnell was doing to find out what was going on since the Liberals chose not to post the poll-by-poll breakdown at the party as usually happens on election night.

But if the lack of posted numbers unnerved Bagnell's supporters, it didn't show much last night.

And their standard-bearer did not let them down as Bagnell cruised to a crushing victory by defeating his nearest competitor, New Democrat Pam Boyde, by 2,500 votes with a total of 5,682.

The margin of victory made it much easier on his supporters' nerves this time around. In 2000, when Bagnell first won a pass to Ottawa, he snuck past incumbent New Democrat Louise Hardy by 70 votes. Bagnell trailed by as much as 200 votes in that election but pulled ahead for good late in the count.

Close to two hours after the polls closed, the crowd of approximately 50 supporters had still not seen the man of the hour.

Bagnell's chief handler, Shayne Fairman, kept the MP in hiding. Fairman wanted to wait for other volunteers, forcing Yukoners to wait until well after the election was a foregone conclusion.

Finally, Bagnell emerged from his hotel room and made the 10-step walk into the hall at the Yukon Inn to the applause of the gathered supporters.

After glad-handing his way around the room, Bagnell told the supporters he was pleased to win a major larger victory than a 70-vote squeaker.

'I want to thank Yukoners for giving me such a strong margin of victory this time,' said Bagnell.

'Now I can go back to Ottawa and say that Yukoners are strong and united and that they want to be heard.'

In a press conference following the speech, Bagnell indicated the huge margin meant Yukoners appreciated what they did for them.

'I did my best for the last 3 1/2 years. I worked seven days a week, 12 hours a day and I left it up to the voters. There's nothing more I could have done personally.

'So, win or lose, I'm happy that I did a good job. If I'd lost, I still would have been,' said Bagnell.

'They appreciated the hard work and Yukon's voice being heard but they want me to go back and make sure that there's strong fiscal management,' Bagnell said of the message he read from the vote. 'I'm certainly going to take that message.'

He found people who weren't going to vote for him also liked what he did as MP.

'When I went to the doors, those personally who told me they were voting against me, said they couldn't fault my job. So, I'm proud of that,' said Bagnell.

'I certainly appreciate the honour you guys have given me because there's no greater honour to me, personally, than to be able to go to Parliament as one of the 308 representatives and represent your peers,' he said.

The MP was very appreciative of the commanding victory he was handed.

'I just want to thank Yukoners for the confidence they put in me,' said Bagnell.

'When Yukoners work hard for their constituents, I think they choose the person. They did with Erik Nielsen and Audrey McLaughlin when they worked hard for their constituents. And I certainly appreciate the fact that Yukoners recognized that and put their faith in me.

'And, so I'm going to try and do my best to live up to their expectations again.'

One of the supporters at the party, Yukon Liberal Leader Pat Duncan, was not surprised by Bagnell's resounding triumph.

'I'm gratified for Larry. His work has been recognized,' said the ex-premier. 'The electorate said, You know what? You've done a good job; thank you.''

Duncan believes it is a great thing for Yukoners to have Bagnell head back to Ottawa.

'I'll tell you what I heard at the door campaigning both with Larry and campaigning on behalf of Larry. The first words out of people's mouths was, Larry works for me.' He works incredibly hard and that was recognized,' said Duncan, who was sporting a button with the slogan, 'Larry works for me.'

Bagnell took around 45 per cent of the vote with Boyde scoring more than 25 per cent.

In third place was Conservative James Hartle, at 2,591 votes. Next was Green candidate Philippe LeBlond, with 563 votes, followed by the Marijuana Party's Sean Davey with 288. Bringing up the rear was Geoff Capp of the Christian Heritage Party with 114.

Davey, Hartle and Boyde all arrived at the Liberal headquarters to congratulate Bagnell.

He congratulated Davey for getting a substantial amount of votes, while he and Boyde shared a hug and a laugh. Bagnell praised first-time candidate Hartle, who had a promise for the Liberal.

'Considering you came in late, you did a great job,' Bagnell told Hartle. 'You put up some good numbers, so that's great.'

'It's a start for a new party, so (I) look forward to getting in the race again with you next time around,' the Conservative replied.

During his speech, Bagnell made a point about each of his vanquished foes:

  • he noted that Boyde has made a great contribution throughout her life to the NDP;

  • acknowledged that Hartle was late to the race and a rookie but still got his ideas across;

  • said Capp runs in every election for the Christian Heritage Party and is a good spokesman for the group;

  • noted LeBlond came in with 'a brand new party' (the Greens first ran in a federal election in 1993) with new ideas. 'It is incumbent on us to look at those new ideas'; and

  • mentioned that Davey ran his entire campaign from his site at the Robert Service Campground.

Despite his romp, Bagnell did not lead the entire way.

The first poll released came out of Destruction Bay and put Conservative Hartle in front with 11 votes to four for each of the NDP and Liberals.

After a few more polls rolled in, supporters noted the world had righted itself as Bagnell took the lead, a lead he never relinquished.

Bagnell is the first Liberal to be re-elected as the Yukon's MP since James Aubrey Simmons in the middle of the 20th century.

In 1949, Simmons became the Yukon's MP and was re-elected in 1953. He also won the 1957 race over Tory lawyer Erik Nielsen. However, after the challenge of the 1957 results, the election was overturned and Nielsen beat him in a byelection.

Bagnell said he still wants to push himself with long hours of work in his next term as the territory's MP.

'It's not best for my health, but as I said, I'm energized by the people, by the support of the people and winning things for the Yukon. You only have so much time in an honoured position like this so I want to make sure that I use every ounce of my energy and every minute of that time to get things for Yukoners. After that I can rest,' he said.

Bagnell was already thinking about his agenda just after winning the night. He mentioned he's going to the Farrago Music Festival in Faro this weekend, as well as a gathering in Old Crow.

'So, I have a very thorough schedule.'

Plus, he said there are many issues that came up during the election that he wants to work on. For example, non-insured health benefits for first nations people was one issue he heard about that he wants to work on.

A reduced Liberal roster may mean a new job for the man Prime Minister Paul Martin made parliamentary secretary to the minister of Indian and Northern Affairs. However, Bagnell wasn't willing to speculate on the possibility of being the first cabinet minister in the Yukon in close to two decades, when Nielsen was a minister.

'That has nothing to do with me. The prime minister makes those decisions.'

With the easy victory, most of Bagnell's supporters, including Liberal Senator Ione Christensen, watched the results stream in on TV.

During the interview, Bagnell praised all of the defeated MPs and all of the candidates in general for entering the race.

But after his speech, Bagnell was told that top Conservative MP John Reynolds had been defeated in his B.C. riding. The Yukon Liberal replied with a thumbs up.

It turned out to be one of CBC's gaffes of the evening. After declaring Reynolds had been defeated, the network had to back-track and announce Reynolds had won.

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