‘People want their democracy back’: Bagnell

Larry Bagnell wants a rematch. The former Yukon MP is seeking the Liberal Party's nomination to run in the next federal election. In 2011, Bagnell lost the seat he'd held for 10 years by 136 votes to current MP Ryan Leef.

Larry Bagnell wants a rematch.

The former Yukon MP is seeking the Liberal Party’s nomination to run in the next federal election.

In 2011, Bagnell lost the seat he’d held for 10 years by 136 votes to current MP Ryan Leef.

He says the public has been asking about him running again ever since.

“A lot of it is hundreds of people just asking me to run again. Really encouraging me. I want to give them that opportunity.”

Years out of political service has not stopped Bagnell from being approached by Yukoners.

“I can almost never go to the grocery store without being stopped by someone,” he said laughing. “I always put extra time in the parking meter because people want to stop and talk.”

Bagnell predicts there will be a few major issues when Yukoners go to the polls in 2015.

“For the Yukon, two things that are maybe bigger than in the average riding are the cuts to aboriginal programming and to tourism,” he said.

“Tourism is a bigger part of our economy than any other province or territory, so the cuts to tourism have hurt.”

In 2012, Parks Canada announced it was cancelling guided tours at both the S.S. Klondike and Dredge No. 4 following federal cutbacks.

That prompted an outcry from local businesses that rely on the tourism that the historic sites bring in. In 2013, the tours were taken over by private companies.

Bagnell called the federal government’s decision to close the Whitehorse Revenue Canada office another “flash point” for voters.

“There are a lot of things that only a particular group will complain about, but that particular office served everybody,” he said. The office closed in September 2012.

Bagnell also took the opportunity to criticize proposed election law changes.

Bill C-23, dubbed the Fair Elections Act, has been criticized by many groups, most recently by First Nations representatives, who testified before a parliamentary committee last month.

The Conservatives initially planned to eliminate vouching, where a properly identified voter can vouch for the identity of someone without the proper ID.

Representatives with the Assembly of First Nations testified the changes would make it harder for aboriginals to vote.

The Conservatives have since softened their plans to allow a form of vouching to continue, to assist residents without ID that states their address. However, voters being vouched for would still have to show two forms of ID with their name.

Other concerns remain, too. “The new act doesn’t allow the commissioner of elections to actually call witnesses and investigate and demand that witnesses testify,” Bagnell said.

“So how can he get to the bottom of any of these various election scandals? People want their democracy back. That’s what I’ve been hearing on the street.”

Bagnell’s loss itself was part of its own scandal.

The Yukon was one of six ridings targeted in the robocalls scandal during the 2011 election.

A federal judge concluded that someone orchestrated automated calls to voters to tell them – incorrectly – that their polling stations had been moved.

But even though the calls were an attempt at electoral fraud, there’s no evidence it worked, the judge said.

After losing by such a small margin, Bagnell said he heard from a number of voters who didn’t vote at all during the last election.

“They didn’t vote last time because they thought there wasn’t any possibility that I wasn’t going to win and so they were busy doing something else at the time and they didn’t go out to vote.”

That will be different this time around, he said.

During his time away from politics Bagnell cared for his two young children, five-year-old Aurora and two-year-old Dawson.

He says that experience allowed him to get a greater understanding of the needs of Yukon families.

“I think I would be more sensitive to those aspects of life in the Yukon if I happen to win the nomination and get re-elected.”

A date has not been set for when the nomination contest will take place.

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