In November 2000, Larry Bagnell became the Yukon’s member of Parliament, winning by a mere 70 votes.
Monday night, over a decade and four elections later, Bagnell lost his seat by a similarly slim margin.
As many as 5,290 Yukoners voted for the incumbent MP – 33 per cent of voters.
But Bagnell came in just 132 votes shy of Conservative candidate Ryan Leef.
It was an appropriately subdued evening at the High Country Inn on election night, as a couple dozen Liberal supporters sat and watched the polls come in from across the country.
Trying to ignore the thorough beating that their party was taking, not to mention the humiliating defeat of Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff in his riding, everyone watched the Yukon numbers slowly trickle in.
From the beginning, Leef was out ahead, but the tense group of Liberals tried to predict the way that Bagnell could close the gap.
Back in 2000, when Bagnell narrowly beat out Louise Hardy, he was also trailing in the polls. It came right down to the last few polling stations. But in the end, Bagnell came out on top.
Unfortunately for Bagnell and his supporters, that didn’t happen on Monday night.
By 10:15 p.m., with only one polling booth left to come in, the writing was on the wall.
Bagnell entered the hall to hearty applause and Gloria Gaynor’s, I Will Survive – the choice of music either ironic or somewhat sad, depending how you look at it.
With his daughter Aurora in his arms, Bagnell thanked the many supporters who had worked hard on his campaign.
“The voters are always right and we’ll accept that decision tonight,” he said.
Bagnell praised all three of his rival candidates, and offered a particular congratulations to Leef for his victory.
“He’s been a great competitor all his life and I think this was no exception,” he said.
“I wish him the best in serving Yukoners, and anything I can do to help him get set up I’ll certainly do, because we don’t want any lapse in service to Yukoners.”
Bagnell didn’t offer any theories as to what lost him the tight race, other than the fact that he had some stiff competition from all three of the other candidates.
Bagnell, who opposed the long-gun registry, was nevertheless forced to prop it up by a whipped Liberal vote.
He didn’t think that this issue in particular had anything to do with his defeat on Monday night.
“There are certain votes in Parliament that you don’t have a choice, so that wasn’t an issue,” said Bagnell.
“I’m sure it had an effect, it’s had an effect every election, but the Conservatives didn’t changed much in their percentages in this election from last election so it couldn’t have had a major affect.”
Bagnell had no regrets about this year’s campaign.
“I can’t be too disappointed because there’s nothing else I could’ve done – I went to every single community, I knocked on hundreds of doors,” he said.
“I did everything possible I could for Yukoners, and if that’s not enough that’s fine.”
Bagnell sounded eager to take a break from the long work hours and frequent flights required as the Yukon’s MP.
He also looks forward to spending more time with his family.
“You’re never out of politics, but I certainly won’t miss being away from my family so much,” he said.
“My poor wife hardly gets to see me – one day a week or something – so we’ll have a much better family life and I’m sure I’ll be a much better father for it.”
Many other Liberal candidates shared the same fate as Bagnell on election night.
The Liberals lost as many as 43 seats, leaving the party in shambles with just 34 members returning to Ottawa.
The dismal results forced Michael Ignatieff to resign as leader of the party on Tuesday morning.
“We lost some great Liberals nationally in this campaign,” said Bagnell.
“We certainly have a lot of rebuilding to do in the party, there’s no doubt about that.”
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