Fatigue and fatherhood no barrier to hardworking Bagnell

If re-elected, Larry Bagnell will be even more rumpled and sleep-deprived than usual. The bags beneath his eyes will only grow darker.

If re-elected, Larry Bagnell will be even more rumpled and sleep-deprived than usual.

The bags beneath his eyes will only grow darker.

Yukon’s Member of Parliament expects to be a father in November. Soon, the 58-year-old workaholic’s already long list of obligations will include diaper changing and other duties.

Will this require a trade-off, in which, if re-elected, he must choose between public service or parenting?

He doesn’t think so, he says.

If anything, being an MP is good practice for being a parent, he says.

He’s used to running on four to five hours of sleep a night.

Bagnell is also accustomed to making a gruelling commute between Ottawa and the Yukon, which, with few exceptions, he has done every weekend while the House has been in session.

He usually leaves Whitehorse on a Sunday, at 7 a.m. When he arrives in Ottawa, it’s often 10 p.m.

“It’s just awful,” he says.

He hopes to make fewer such trips in the future. If he is re-elected, Bagnell expects his wife and child to frequently be in Ottawa with him.

Will this mean having to choose between family or community visits?

Not necessarily, he says.

“My baby will probably be very well-travelled,” he says, “and be at a lot of events, I think.”

No kidding.

During this campaign alone, Bagnell has already visited Carcross, Tagish, Marsh Lake, Teslin, Watson Lake, Johnson’s Crossing, Keno, Elsa, Mayo, Ross River, Faro, Pelly Crossing, Carmacks, Old Crow and Dawson City.

All that leaves is Haines Junction, Destruction Bay and Beaver Creek.

“I always try to make sure that rural people don’t feel left out,” he says.

The fact that Bagnell appears to be everywhere at all times seems key to his popularity. He took nearly half the vote in the last federal election.

The fact that the previous Liberal government threw buckets of money at the Yukon doesn’t hurt, either.

He only needs to point to Whitehorse’s Canada Games Centre, which cost $40 million to build, as concrete evidence of what his lobbying has helped achieve.

There’s little doubt he works a lot. He’s regularly voted as one of the hardest-working MPs by his peers.

“The Yukon is probably mentioned as much as any other riding in Hansard,” he says.

And, “now that I have another term under my belt, I’ll be even more experienced in fighting for things that Yukoners want.”

The chief objection levelled against him is that, as a Liberal, it’s not likely his party will form the next government.

He probably won’t be pulling the levers of power — only criticizing those who do.

This doesn’t trouble him.

After all, a Conservative MP would be in no position to publicly criticize cuts to spending made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, says Bagnell.

“They can’t speak against Harper,” he says. “They couldn’t have fought them.”

Cuts made by the Harper government to literacy councils, women’s equality groups, museums and arts funding are “shameful,” says Bagnell.

“I was leading the charge in Parliament against these cuts,” he says.

In the case of literacy cuts, the money was reinstated after public protests.

As the Liberal’s critic for northern affairs, Bagnell has also been vocal on the need to map the Arctic seabed to reinforce sovereignty claims.

He’s mocked the Conservative government’s waffling on its promise to buy three icebreakers to patrol Arctic waters.

And he’s called for search and rescue planes to be based North of 60, rather than straddling the US border.

Bagnell’s work in Liberal caucuses have led to changes, too, he says.

He credits work done in the rural caucus, of which he is chair, in helping to quash a Canada Post policy that would have required residents to produce photo ID to pick up parcels, even in rural communities where “everyone knows everyone.”

Needless to say, if the Liberals form the next government, the Yukon will be awash in gravy, says Bagnell. Billions will be spent nationally on environmental programs, improving the lives of Canadian aboriginals and repairing crumbling infrastructure in rural and northern communities, he says.

This aside, much of the work done by an MP involves helping constituents, says Bagnell.

And he doubts his political opponents will be as efficient at serving constituents as he is, after eight years as an MP, and a previous lengthy career as a civil servant.

Navigating the federal bureaucracy isn’t easy, he says. When constituents have trouble with income tax, employment insurance, pensions, passports and other matters, they come to him.

“The reason I stay in this line of work is to help those who can’t help themselves,” he says.

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