Larry Bagnell is greeted by supporters at the door of Antoinette’s restaurant in Whitehorse on Oct. 21, just minutes after results from the last Yukon election poll were counted and he was declared the territory’s MP for his sixth term. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Bagnell declared re-elected but Smith not ready to concede

The fight to be Yukon’s MP came down to 72 votes

Liberal Larry Bagnell has been declared the Yukon’s member of Parliament for a sixth term but Conservative candidate Jonas Smith says he is not ready to concede defeat.

The two men jockeyed for the lead all election night Oct. 21. The winner was not declared until nearly 11 p.m.

The results show Bagnell beat out Smith by only 72 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.”

Adil Khalik, a supporter, said he was positive Bagnell would win, despite the race being so tight.

“He’s been working very hard for us in the Yukon here, for everybody,” he said.

Meanwhile, at the Coast High Country Inn, Jonas Smith told media he was not conceding, explaining that there had been “a lot of confusion at a number of polls” and that some ballots — absentee, military and corrections — had not yet been counted.

Jonas Smith, the Yukon Conservative MP candidate, speaks to his supporters with his wife and children on stage in Whitehorse on Oct. 21, shortly after the territory’s election polls were finalized and he had lost by 72 votes. (Jackie Hong/Yukon News)

“It’ll probably take a day or two to figure out where that’s at … I just know that not everything’s been counted yet,” he said.

Asked whether he’s concerned about a potential recount, Bagnell said, “Well, that’s fine. It was really close. Recounts don’t normally make much difference in one or two votes. Democracy is democracy.”

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.”

This would be Bagnell’s sixth term in office. He was the Yukon’s MP form 2000 to 2011 and was re-elected in 2015.

Earlier, 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, moments after the room sang O Canada.

“You know, they say that in democracy, the people are always right, and so we might have to wait a few more hours to see how right the people were,” he continued, alluding to the counting of the other ballots.

“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.”

Speaking to media, Smith said the night had been a “neck-and-neck race all the way through,” and while he said he couldn’t comment yet on next steps as he was still awaiting final ballot counts, he did express relief on one front of the election being over.

Justin Lemphers, Yukon NDP MP candidate, talks to supporters at North of Ordinary Experience Centre in Whitehorse during the Yukon’s election count on Oct. 21. Lemphers came in third place. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)

“In the short term, it means I get to sleep in and spend some time with my family,” he said.

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 NDP candidate Justin 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.

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, shaking hands or sharing a hug with those walking through the door.

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.

After highlighting the territorial election in his speech, 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 the seats that 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.

Throughout Singh’s own speech highlighting the NDP’s commitments regarding the climate crisis, ensuring meaningful reconciliation, pharmacare for all, waiving interest on student loans, and that the super-wealthy “pay their fair share,” cheers erupted from Yukoners supporting Lemphers.

Nearly 70 per cent of registered voters in the Yukon cast a ballot, according to Elections Canada.

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