Bagnell burns the midnight oil

During canvassing on Tuesday night, Larry Bagnell's two main problems were the hockey game and Michael Ignatieff.

During canvassing on Tuesday night, Larry Bagnell’s two main problems were the hockey game and Michael Ignatieff.

“We’ve even seen a house with a homemade sign out front saying: ‘Hockey game in progress, no politicians,’” said Bagnell with a laugh.

The Ignatieff issue is a little more delicate.

The first door Bagnell banged on in Riverdale was opened by a woman worried about the Liberal leader.

“He used the word “mendacious” today, she said.

“I mean really? Now, I have to go home and look it up.”

She wasn’t sure how she was voting.

“Iggy is killing me,” she said.

“I mean, keep it simple.”

Bagnell promised to pass on the message.

It’s not the first time Ignatieff has come up on the campaign trail.

“I’ve heard some concern about Iggy, but not nearly as much as about (Prime Minister Stephen) Harper,” he said.

A week before the election, Bagnell had already made it to every Yukon community.

The long driving hours and the heavy campaigning is taking its toll on the 61-year-old Yukon MP.

He sleeps “occasionally,” thanks to his baby daughter Aurora.

“If she wakes up, I go in and lie down beside her and sometimes fall asleep,” he said.

Still, campaigning is not as tough as flying home from Ottawa every weekend.

“It takes 12 hours and three airports,” he said. “It’s exhausting.”

Even when he is home, he not actually home much.

“Today my daughter was crying because she missed me,” said Bagnell, just back from Beaver Creek.

So why does he do it?

“I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t winning battles and making a difference for Yukoners,” he said.

Although it’s tiring, Bagnell loves visiting the communities.

“It gives me a chance to talk to people and hear their concerns, because when Parliament is in session and I’m back Friday and on the plane again on Sunday, it’s hard to get out and talk to people” he said.

Bagnell’s whipped vote to keep the gun registry has come up in the communities, and in Whitehorse.

“But it hasn’t come up any more or less than in other elections,” he said.

“And I explain that I didn’t have a choice – if it had been a free vote I would have voted the way my constituents wanted me to – but I would never leave the party over it.”

If Bagnell had voted against his party, Ignatieff would have given Bagnell the boot.

“You can’t accomplish much as an independent,” said Bagnell.

In the rural areas, voters’ concerns vary depending on location.

On the north highway the poor road conditions are critical.

“I have been lobbying for money for the Shakwak Project for years,” he said.

In Ross River, elder payments aren’t enough to keep up with the costs of fuel and wood.

And in Mayo, seniors want to see new housing.

The Liberal platform promises to subsidize time off for people taking care of sick children or aging parents. It also offers students up to $4,000 toward advanced education.

In Riverdale, the environment came up.

The Liberals “will increase renewables, which is important in Arctic communities that rely on diesel,” said Bagnell.

“We’ll also reduce emissions, create a clean resource development plan, so mines aren’t polluting, and establish fresh water strategies.”

Right now, the Yukon doesn’t even have the ability to measure its water table, he said.

Bagnell also wants to see a moratorium on oil drilling in the Arctic until a spill-cleanup plan is in place, and he wants to strengthen the Arctic Council.

Surprisingly, the environment hasn’t come up much, he said.

Bagnell’s heard concerns about the youth justice act and Harper’s tough-on-crime legislation – which pushes for mega-jails, like the failed ones the US is now phasing out.

And he’s heard concerns about cuts to arts funding.

But mostly people are worried about the direction Canada is going, he said.

As he walked along Tagish Street, families out with their kids greeted Bagnell by name.

At most doors, people told him they didn’t need his glossy brochure – he already had their vote.

At one house, where no on was home, Bagnell suddenly spotted one of his signs lying in the yard.

He picked up a rock and hammered it back in -“I hope the sign belongs to this house and wasn’t just thrown here,” he said with a grin.

Even staunch Yukon Conservatives are sporting Bagnell signs in their front yards this year, alongside the Ryan Leef signs.

And in one of the communities, a known Conservative greeted Bagnell at the door with news she was voting for him.

“That was a big surprise,” he said.

Despite the support, Bagnell isn’t easing up.

“I run every campaign like I am one vote behind,” he said.

Bagnell doesn’t like partisan politics.

And he doesn’t like all the “bad behaviour” in the House.

“But that’s how the big decisions that affect the community are made,” he said.

“And if I can help people, especially needy people – it makes the long hours and the hard part of the job worthwhile.”

Contact Genesee Keevil at

gkeevil@yukon-news.com