Bagnell triumphs over party politics

There was beer, Brie and bated breath, but no Larry Bagnell. People were getting antsy. Necks were craning in the crowded Liberal headquarters at…

There was beer, Brie and bated breath, but no Larry Bagnell.

People were getting antsy.

Necks were craning in the crowded Liberal headquarters at the Yukon Inn.

The results had been flowing for an hour and it was clear Bagnell had been re-elected the Yukon’s MP.

“Larry did not just resist the flow, he swam upstream and did even better than last time,” said his campaign manager Shayne Fairman.

“This increased margin is a testament to his hard work and his ability to get things done for the Yukon.”

Bagnell received 48.5 per cent of the vote. In the last election he received 45.7 per cent.

He now has a winning record, 3-2. After losing two territorial campaigns in the ‘90s, Bagnell has handily won three federal elections.

“Larry held his own just because he’s Larry,” said supporter Ernie Jamison.

“The Liberals were slammed a little over the country, but Yukoners don’t think like that.”

Eventually, The Proclaimers, I Would Walk 500 Miles started pounding from the room’s sound system.

“When I’m walkin’, yes I know I’m gonna be, I’m gonna be the man who’s walkin hard for you….”

The crowd started clapping, anticipation rose . . .

“And when the money comes in for the work I do, I’ll pass almost every penny on to you,” the song continued as Bagnell walked in all smiles and gave the crowd a thumbs-up.

A tiny girl ran up and threw her arms around his neck.

“It’s my goddaughter,” he explained toting her around as he shook hands and fielded hugs.

“I love you Yukoners,” he said, after starting his speech with First Nations greetings.

“I look at Yukoners with so much admiration for their sense of fairness.”

Even those who weren’t voting for the Liberals appreciate Bagnell’s work on behalf of the territory, said Watson Lake mayor Richard Durocher.

Bagnell is a strong voice for the Yukon; the party banner doesn’t matter, he said.

“He came through on forestry and has been a strong voice for us. Everybody knows him on a first-name basis in Watson Lake.”

That said, Conservative Sue Greetham beat Bagnell by seven votes in one of Watson Lake’s two polling stations.

“At the door people were having a tough time deciding between the individual and the party,” said Liberal canvasser Mike Walton.

“This is the biggest problem we had,” agreed Liberal researcher Jason Cunning.

“People think Larry’s great, but they couldn’t support the party, and those people were going to vote for the Tories, not the NDP.”

Throughout the election, the Conservatives and New Democrats were making hay out of misdeeds that happened 10 years ago, said party supporter Dave Layzell, discussing past Liberal corruption.

“And Gomery exonerated the current heads of the Liberal party — so where is the scandal?”

“We will fight and rise again,” said Bagnell.

“We lost some important cabinet ministers this election who fought for the arts, the Yukon and the North.

“In Ottawa, I will have to fight even harder, so we don’t lose the gas tax revenue, infrastructure agreements, the northern strategy agreement, search and rescue North of 60 and a united Canada.”

The Conservatives have made no commitments to continue northern gas tax revenues, he added.

Bagnell promised to ensure the new government doesn’t forget anyone, including women, First Nations and the disabled.

“A rising tide raises all ships and everyone dances together — that’s the kind of Canada I believe in,” he said.

“I have already been in battles with (Stephen) Harper about not going to Iraq and missile defence — and he will be hearing about ANWR and Aboriginal concerns, including the historic Kelowna agreement and the residential school agreement.”

“Bagnell is going to do well, even in a minority conservative government,” said Old Crow resident Norma Kassi.

“He knows the Yukon and the issues, including ANWR, and he is going to work hard.”

The First Nations will have to do a lot to re-educate the new government, she added.

During his campaign visits to rural communities, Bagnell kept on working for his constituents.

“I made a list of what needs to be done,” he said.

“I feel so guilty if I miss an e-mail or a letter.”

He plans to continue working 12-hour days, and may even work longer.

Bagnell apologized to his fiancée Melissa Craig after making this promise.

“When are you going to take a holiday Larry?” asked CBC reporter Trisha Estabrooks.

“Well, I have about 10 minutes now,” he said smiling.

Roughly 12 hours later, he was on a plane to Vancouver, to promote the Yukon at a mining conference.

Shortly after Bagnell’s victory speech, Paul Martin announced his resignation.

“I’m very sad,” said Bagnell.

“Martin has done so much for the North — the Canada Games Centre was created because of Martin, he supported the northern strategy — he produced for the North.

“He came to Watson Lake. When was the last time a prime minister came to rural Yukon?”

“I hope the Conservatives are as generous to the North as Paul Martin’s government,” said Fairman.

“I am hopeful, but not optimistic.”

During the campaign, Harper kept all the “nut-bars under wraps,” said Cunning.

“And now that he’s in charge they will be anxious to spread their wings.”

The youngest Liberal supporter in the room had no comments for the media.

He can’t talk yet.

Three-month-old Maddox Hale was decked out in Liberal red, sporting a shirt that read, “I love Larry.”

“This is his first big political event,” said his mom Tara Kolla-Hale.

Bagnell walked around with his wee supporter for a while, posing for pictures and garnering smiles.

NDP candidate Pam Boyde showed for a nanosecond, offering Bagnell a quick handshake and leaving the room so fast she almost collided with her campaign manager Rachael Lewis.

Sue Greetham arrived with a smile and stayed.

“She ran a high-roller campaign, “ said Bagnell.

“Who else would come to fight me and say she loved me as an MP?”

“Bagnell is the only politician I’ve ever known who is universally respected by every party,” said supporter Cully Robinson.

The cheese platters were emptying, wine glasses sat on vacated tables, Bagnell’s endless workload was calling.

Some fellows walked in off the street and helped themselves to the remaining food.

As supporters left, several paused to admire a series of framed snapshots displayed on an easel by the door: Bagnell in a top hat and tails, as captain of the football team, fishing and windblown in a mackinaw, dressed to the nines with Craig, a young actor in Arthur Miller’s Crucible and shooting hoops as “Secret Weapon” Bagnell.

In every picture he is smiling. And it is genuine.

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