Bagnell’s staff closes up shop

Former Yukon MP Larry Bagnell wasn’t the only one who lost his job on election night. Of course, there were the many other Liberal incumbents who lost their seats in the House of Commons – former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff among them.

Former Yukon MP Larry Bagnell wasn’t the only one who lost his job on election night.

Of course, there were the many other Liberal incumbents who lost their seats in the House of Commons – former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff among them.

But behind each and every MP there is a small team of hardworking staff – doing research, answering phones and helping constituents.

On Parliament Hill there are more than 300 bewildered ex-Liberal staffers looking for work.

And in the Yukon, there are at least two.

“I go home every night now and wonder, ‘What am I going to do?’” said Kathryn Ives, who has worked in Bagnell’s Whitehorse office for nearly three years.

She’s unemployed as of the end of the month.

“But such is life. I came into this position knowing that it wasn’t secure. Obviously you keep your fingers crossed that the outcome will be positive, but in this case it wasn’t.

“So I’m going to do my job here and do it as best as I can until it’s over.”

Right now, that job involves wading through more than a decade’s worth of files and paperwork as she helps close down Bagnell’s office on the corner of Fourth Ave and Black Street.

“There are a couple bookshelves, three filing cabinets … all full of files, some from way back in 2001,” said Ives last week.

“It’s hard to know what to keep and what to throw away. It’s hard going through someone else’s files.”

Bagnell had six employees working for him.

There were two in Ottawa, two in Whitehorse, and part-time staff in Bagnell’s “satellite constituency offices” in Watson Lake and Dawson city.

Bagnell was the first Yukon MP to open up offices in the communities, allowing Yukoners to apply for passports, get help and express concerns without having to come all the way to Whitehorse.

For the most part, Ives and her coworker in the Whitehorse office – who has worked with Bagnell for more than nine years – helped constituents who had issues or concerns with federal departments.

Some of Ives proudest achievements came while helping out with immigration applications.

A number of local people applied to have family members visit from abroad, but were denied visitor visas.

Ives helped establish cases to have those decisions overturned.

And on two occasions it was granted.

“To me that was probably my biggest constituency achievement,” she said.

“The appreciation that we got from the constituents is one of the other positives of this job – to know that you’ve affected and assisted and changed someone’s life for the better.”

Ives didn’t come from a political background and had no link to the Liberal Party when she first applied to work for Bagnell.

Being nonpartisan was actually helpful and a big part of her job, said Ives.

“Once you’re elected you represent the whole, regardless of whether or not that person voted for you,” she said.

“And if you want to be re-elected you have to make sure you help all of those people. That’s something that Larry strongly encouraged us to do.”

But it’s hard to remain nonpartisan when your job depends on people voting for the Liberal Party.

“That tends to have an affect on who you vote for.”

Ives pitched in to help with two of Bagnell’s most recent campaigns – one successful, the other not so much.

Its very upsetting to have to let people like Ives go, said Bagnell.

“It’s one thing if someone’s let go and they’re not doing a good job,” he said.

“But these people worked their hearts out for Yukoners, they’ve done an excellent service and they’ve developed a lot of expertise over the years as well.”

Bagnell was in Ottawa last week, cleaning out his apartment and office before coming home.

Richelle Barrette has worked in that Ottawa office for nearly a year.

She describes the mood in Ottawa right now – among the Liberal camp anyway – to be one of sadness and uncertainty.

“Most of my friends lost their jobs in this election,” said Barrette.

“There will probably be a few jobs opening up once they pick an interim leader, but the market here is flooded.”

Barrette – who has yet to visit the Yukon but now has the free time to do so – loved working for Bagnell, she said.

“One thing that I’ll miss the most is meeting other staffer MPs telling me how great Larry is, how they’re going to miss him and how Canada as a whole has lost a really great member of Parliament.”

The NDP might start looking to ex-Liberal staffers as they try to fill their rosters, said Barrette.

“I’d like to get on with another Liberal member, but those jobs are few and far between.”

Back in Whitehorse, both Ives and her coworker have already received some job offers from within the community.

However, so far there have been no offer from the Yukon’s new Conservative MP Ryan Leef.

If there were, Ives isn’t sure whether or not she’d accept the offer.

“I enjoyed working for Larry because I respected Larry and I believed that what he was trying to accomplish out of this office was working,” she said.

“It really depends on the member of Parliament, and I’m not familiar with Ryan, I don’t know him.”

Contact Chris Oke at chriso@yukon-news.com

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