Whitehorse Daily Star

Ignatieff wins MP's stamp of approval

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell has thrown his support behind Michael Ignatieff's federal Liberal party leadership campaign.

By Whitehorse Star on August 28, 2006

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell has thrown his support behind Michael Ignatieff's federal Liberal party leadership campaign.

'(Ignatieff) has demonstrated a keen interest in the issues facing the North and shown a deep appreciation of our place in the Canadian federation,' Bagnell said Friday.

Ignatieff was in Whitehorse that day to make the joint announcement with the member of Parliament.

Ignatieff is one of 10 Liberals looking to win the nod of the party at the leadership convention in Montreal in December.

Ignatieff is currently serving as the member of Parliament for the Toronto riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore.

He has a long resume, which includes work as a writer, professor and journalist. He is considered a world expert in human rights, democracy, security and international affairs.

'(Bagnell's) support is terribly important to me,' Ignatieff told a press conference at the Gold Rush Inn.

The Yukon MP has been named as the national advisor on northern affairs for Ignatieff's campaign team.

The duties will mean a little more work, said Bagnell, but will be similar in scope to his current role as the Liberal critic on northern affairs.

'Thanks to Larry, I understand the Yukon a little bit better,' said Ignatieff.

He said he sees the Yukon as a leader in the areas of climate change and first nations self-government.

'It's important for the whole of Canada, because first nations are pioneering self-government here in ways that all Canada needs to watch,' he said.

He said he is also extremely interested in creating regional development strategies for the North.

Ignatieff focused much of his speech to a room packed with Liberals on addressing national unity in the country, in relation to urban and regional dynamics and the evolution of aboriginal governments.

'It's the undiscussed national unity challenge of our time. This division between rural and urban Canada, between southern Canada and northern Canada,' he said.

'Getting that political linkage between the North and the South is also important. I see the issue of the North as part of the national unity issue that I am trying to fix.'

Economic development, educational investment, aboriginal governments, environmental issues all play an important role in Ignatieff's vision for Canada, and the North is central to it, he said.

Creating better transportation linkages between the North and South, ensuring adequate health care services and making sure the North is heard politically were all highlighted by the leadership contender.

'This is a natural resource powerhouse and it's surpassingly beautiful. You've got a lot going for you here,' he said. 'The job of federal government is to help you get there.'

Bagnell said he decided several weeks ago he would be supporting the Ignatieff team.

It was not an easy decision, he said.

'It took me some time to weigh. Picking the top out of a good selection is not easy,' he said. 'They each have their own strengths and benefits so I took my time.'

Bagnell is one of the last of Canada's elected representatives to put on the record who he is supporting in the leadership bid.

'Yukoners have always felt with our distance from Ottawa there is always the possibility of being detached, of not being listened to, of people not coming here,' said Bagnell.

The importance Ignatieff places on adaptation, climate change, fiscally responsible government, human rights, independence and sovereignty and aboriginal people were key in his decision, said Bagnell.

'There are so many things that are important to Michael that are important to the Yukon. He certainly has my support. I think he'd be a very dynamic leader of Canada.'

Check the Star tomorrow for complete coverage of Ignatieff's speech on Friday and his vision of Canada.

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