Bagnell unseats Leef

Larry Bagnell is heading back to Ottawa as Yukon’s member of Parliament. The 65-year-old regained the position he held from 2000 to 2011.

Larry Bagnell is heading back to Ottawa as Yukon’s member of Parliament.

The 65-year-old regained the position he held from 2000 to 2011, beating Conservative incumbent Ryan Leef by more than 5,900 votes.

Bagnell’s lead was never threatened last night, as he cruised to victory after only half of the territory’s 84 polls had reported results.

It was a different scenario than the 2011 election, when Leef narrowly beat Bagnell by 132 votes.

In the week before that election, Bagnell had a 20-point lead in the polls.

But the NDP and Green Party fared better than expected and both parties were accused of taking votes from Bagnell.

The polls were less deceiving this time. And Leef’s earlier claims that Bagnell would bring the long-gun registry back, if elected, seemed to have little effect.

Three weeks ago, a poll showed that Bagnell had a 10-point lead over the NDP’s Melissa Atkinson and 12 points over Leef.

In the end Bagnell received almost 54 per cent of votes, while Leef ended the night with 24 per cent and Atkinson garnered 19 per cent.

Frank de Jong of the Green Party ended a distant fourth with 2.9 per cent.

About 100 people crowded into the MacBride Museum of Yukon History last night in support of Bagnell, and in anticipation of the results.

They snacked on wine, sushi, pizza and cheese. Many wore oversized campaign buttons, some with the slogan “Larry works for me,” while others just wore red clothing.

Early in the evening, they followed the Liberal wave as it spread west across the country, first conquering all 32 ridings in Atlantic Canada.

The crowd grew louder and more excited as the numbers rolled in and the Liberals moved closer to the magic number of 170 seats, or a majority government.

Chants of “Larry! Larry! Larry!” began just after 8 p.m.

At around 8:30 p.m., Richard Mostyn – the Yukon Liberal Party’s vice-president – took to the stage and made a surprise announcement.

“Larry Bagnell is the new Yukon MP,” he said, as the crowd erupted in celebration.

Yukon Liberal MLA candidate Rod Taylor made a short speech in which he talked about an 18th-century Scottish author who once said that being trusted was a greater compliment than being loved.

If that was the case, Taylor said, then Bagnell must be feeling a lot of love.

Taylor kicked off the celebrations by calling Bagnell into the front foyer of the museum, to the sound of The Proclaimers and I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles).

“I’m going to be the man who’s working hard for you,” the song goes, an obvious ode to Bagnell’s past recognition as Canada’s hardest-working MP.

He emerged with his family – his son Dawson on his shoulders – and worked his way through the thick crowd, shaking hands and hugging supporters along the way.

Bagnell thanked the other candidates for their hard work and well-fought campaign, but teared up when he acknowledged his wife Melissa.

“She was like a single parent for two years, I was never there,” he said.

He said he loved her and handed her a gift basket before hugging her in tears.

Bagnell talked about the motivation he received following the 2011 election.

After the results came in he saw people in tears, he said, and it pushed him to see if he could get his seat back in Ottawa.

“I had to give them a chance to see if I could do it,” he said.

He praised the work of the people behind the scenes – Brad Weston, Brandon Kassbaum and campaign manager Patricia Cunning.

“I don’t remember a mistake that she made,” Bagnell said of Cunning.

He also singled out 11-year-old Alex Gray, who went door-to-door with him on a few occasions over the last three months.

Gray had approached Cunning at a barbecue event this past summer and asked if he could volunteer with the team.

“I’ve always wanted to get involved in politics,” Gray said.

“As I grew older I started having ideas of my own. It was a great experience canvassing with Larry, he’s really inspiring.

“I’ve decided that I want to be an MP when I grow up.”

During the media scrum Bagnell talked about a long, exhausting campaign, the longest in the history of Canadian politics.

“Sixteen debates, that’s probably more than any candidate in the country had,” he said.

When asked if there had been a turning point in his campaign, he said no.

“You never feel confident, you always feel like you’re one vote behind, until the very last minute.”

Cunning has worked on all of Bagnell’s campaigns dating back to the late 1990s, in one capacity or another.

She said a lot of people used to think she was Bagnell’s wife because she’d accompany him on the road when he visited communities.

“We’re happy to see the country have a Liberal prime minister, and thrilled to get Larry back to Ottawa and working for Yukoners,” she said.

She recalled a campaign when she and Bagnell were in a Dawson City bar, trying to gather support before an election.

A woman went up to Bagnell and had “colourful language” for him, Cunning said.

“I didn’t think it was going all that well,” she added, “but a few minutes later he gave me a tiny piece of paper with her name on it.”

Bagnell would do that whenever he knew someone would vote for him.

“He listened to her, her issues and her concerns, and she felt that,” Cunning said.

“She trusted that if he got elected, he’d try to help fix those issues. He’s the best candidate I’ve ever known.”

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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