MP Larry Bagnell photographed in Whitehorse on July 25. Bagnell announced on Dec. 14 that he will be running for re-election again. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Too much on the line to waste: Bagnell on seeking re-election in 2019

Conservative Party contender Jonas Smith says it’s time for change

That projects across the Yukon are kept on track hinge on MP Larry Bagnell’s re-election, he told the News.

“We’ve done a lot of good things to help Yukoners,” he said, noting contributions to mental health and helping those in low-income brackets, “but I want to make sure they keep going because some of these are record levels of investment to the Yukon and they can easily be cut back.”

Bagnell announced Dec. 14 that he intends to seek re-election.

He spoke of a healthy economy in the Yukon, part and parcel of a strong relationship with First Nations and “record amounts” of infrastructure investments in most communities, including the Cultural Centre expansion in Haines Junction and the Carcross Learning Centre.

Bagnell served as an MP from 2000 to 2011. He was re-elected in the 2015 federal election.

The longer you hold office, Bagnell said, the more respect and know-how you have, which can mean work is streamlined with a higher success rate.

“I’ve been able to deliver more things for Yukon this time than even in my other four terms. I think that experience is a real benefit to Yukoners,” he said.

Bagnell, in addition to his role as MP, is the chair of the Northern Prairies Caucus and vice-chair of the committee of Arctic parliamentarians.

“Those roles give me more influence for the Yukon,” he said.

Earlier in this year, it was unclear whether Bagnell would run. But during the spring and summer, he was busying himself with meeting nomination requirements stipulated by the Liberals.

To be re-nominated, Bagnell, an incumbent, had to meet conditions set by the party. This included 5,000 phone calls or visiting 3,000 addresses, he said.

“Connecting with people, and then you need, I think it was, 150 signatures from Liberals,” he said, adding that a fundraising plan had to be in place.

When he was out canvassing, some Yukoners, he said, brought up concerns about carbon pricing, pipelines and electoral reform.

Of the thousands of people he contacted, less than 50 people had complaints, Bagnell said.

Bagnell will faceoff against Conservative Party of Canada candidate Jonas Smith, who was nominated in late September.

“Mr. Bagnell has certainly demonstrated that he’s committed to Yukoners over his very long tenure in government, but what I’m hearing on the street is that people are ready for a change, new voice and a fresh perspective,” Smith told the News.

“I’ve heard people would like a Yukoner standing up for them in Ottawa as opposed to someone from Ottawa representing Ottawa in Yukon.”

Asked what issues Smith would tackle as MP he highlighted Bill C-71, gun-control legislation introduced in March.

While it has yet to pass, Smith said it’s “only going to make it harder for Yukoners to feed and defend their families and lawfully practice a sport while doing next to nothing to fight crime in downtown Toronto or support people with mental health issues.”

Smith served as campaign manager to former premier Darrell Pasloski during the 2011 territorial election. After Pasloski’s win, he worked as his executive assistant. Eventually, he took on the role of deputy chief of staff before moving into a position as executive director of the Klondike Placer Miners Association in 2016.

Bagnell had few words about his contender, saying “I’ll say Merry Christmas to him.”

There are issues that go beyond the border that Bagnell wants to continue to lobby on, notably protecting the Porcupine caribou herd, an important cultural component to the Gwich’in people, who live in the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Alaska.

The Canadian government has asked for intervener status on the environment assessment because of a shared caribou conservation agreement signed in the 1987, Bagnell said.

Turning Yukon College into a university is another issue, and the request for federal funding is in.

Asked when a decision would come down, Bagnell said perhaps in the federal budget.

“I certainly hope before the next election is what I’m hoping for.”

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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