Liberal Larry Bagnell has been declared the Yukon’s member of Parliament for a sixth term following a tight race.
Bagnell and Conservative candidate Jonas Smith jockeyed for the lead throughout election night Oct. 21. The winner was not declared until nearly 11 p.m.
The results originally showed Bagnell beat out Smith by only 72 votes. By the next day Elections Canada had updated that to 164 votes.
“It’s a fantastic victory and it’s a victory that we can keep on helping those people in need,” Bagnell said during his winning speech to a throng of supporters at Antoinette’s Restaurant in Whitehorse. “That’s what it’s all about.”
The final result saw Bagnell taking 33.4 per cent of the vote. Smith came away with 33.1 per cent.
“The reason I’m pausing is I had (more time practicing) my losing speech,” Bagnell said. “I didn’t think we were gonna win. The thing that was depressing about that is that you could try your hardest, do a really good job, and politics may be the only job where this happens, you could do your best, do lots of successes and still lose your job, but because of you, that didn’t happen. What a night.”
At his campaign party at the High Country Inn the same night, Smith at first told media he was not conceding. By the next morning he had issued a statement acknowledging that while the vote is in the process of being confirmed it’s “unlikely to change the outcome of yesterday’s election.”
Across Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals managed to gain enough seats to form a minority government. He will have to work with the other parties to get enough votes to pass legislation.
That the Liberals have managed to hang on to their post in Ottawa, Bagnell said, means that single mothers and the environment, among other things, can continue to be supported.
He appeared to not have any qualms when asked what impacts a minority government could have on the Yukon. Bagnell said the two other parties the Liberals could form an alliance with — presumably the NDP or the Bloc Québécois — share some of the same goals — housing and support for low-income earners, for instance.
The campaign and the results of the election spoke volumes, he said.
“The results nationally show that we made some mistakes. We didn’t live up to the things everyone wanted and I can commit to you that I’m going to try as hard as I can to make sure we don’t make those same mistakes again.”
Bagnell was the Yukon’s MP from 2000 to 2011 and was re-elected in 2015.
In a speech following the reporting of Yukon’s final poll, Smith thanked the dozens of gathered supporters for their “unwavering support.”
“I could not have gone through this last year without you, so thank you very much,” he said as his wife and two daughters stood beside him on-stage in front of a large Canadian flag.
“This past year, it’s been an absolute honour to visit you all on your doorsteps, in your communities, you know? As someone who’s family’s been in the Yukon for a long time, I thought I knew the Yukon well, but this last year has been an incredible gift because I’ve really gotten to know things that much better.”
Among Smith’s supporters at the hotel Monday night was his mother, Abigail, who flew to Whitehorse from Edmonton to support her son.
In an interview while the polling results were still coming in, Abigail said the experience was nerve-wracking, but that she was “very, very proud” of Smith.
“He’s had the courage to stand up and he loves the Yukon … He has the courage to stand up and try to do something to make Canada a better country,” she said.
“… He’s worked very, very hard for a long time and he’s put his heart and soul into this and it’s just coming down to the wire.”
At the end of the night NDP candidate Justin Lemphers stopped by Bagnell’s party to congratulate him.
It was not long after the first few Yukon poll results came in that Lemphers found himself in third place. He would remain in that position for the rest of the night.
By the time all 91 Yukon polls were in, Lemphers finished with 21.8 per cent of the Yukon vote or 4,475 votes.
In fourth place was the Green Party’s Lenore Morris with 2,109 votes and the People’s Party of Canada’s Joseph Zelezny with 280 votes. (Additional ballots were counted late. See related story here)
Lemphers mingled with the crowd of about 70 supporters who crammed into the North of Ordinary Experience Centre to take in the results and celebrate the end of the campaign.
Taking the stage just after the crowd had watched and cheered for NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh on the big screen, Lemphers declared it “one hell of a journey” and added, “we kicked ass” to more cheers and applause.
He said energy had been generated on the campaign trail.
“This energy is transformative. It must go forward,” he said, pointing out that the Yukon will soon be headed into a territorial election.
“The future is orange,” he said.
He told reporters he was extremely pleased with how his first time running for office went.
“We earned every single vote,” he said.
Lemphers didn’t rule out the possibility of seeking territorial office.
“We’ll see what happens,” he said with a grin.
Speaking to the national results, Lemphers said with the way seats have been distributed nationally, the minority Liberals would be held to account. And he noted, as a Yukoner he’ll be looking to make sure Bagnell is accountable for his decisions.
A day after the election, the Green Party’s Yukon candidate Lenore Morris said the national results are another demonstration of how things could be different with a proportional representation electoral system that the Greens have been calling for.
While the Greens were successful in gaining three seats - the most they’ve won - the party had six per cent of the popular vote, she pointed out. Similarly, the Conservatives won the popular vote but ended up with fewer seats.
Morris said she was pleased throughout the campaign to see climate change at the top of lists for many voters’ major concerns, regardless of their political leanings.
Zelezny stated in an email that for a party that is just over a year old and with factors against it, he’s pleased with how well the PPC did. Locally, he said best efforts were made given limited time and resources. He said he’s open to possibilities of running for office again.
Roughly 72 per cent of registered voters in the Yukon cast a ballot, according to Elections Canada.