Liberal Larry Bagnell re-elected in Yukon nail-biter

Liberal Larry Bagnell has been re-elected in Yukon, narrowly defeating Conservative Jonas Smith.

Bagnell fends off challenge by Conservative Jonas Smith, who often held lead as votes were counted

'It's a victory so we can really keep on helping the people in need,' said Larry Bagnell, after his re-election in Yukon. (Steve Silva/CBC)

Liberal Larry Bagnell has won re-election in Yukon, after a nail-biter of a race against Conservative Jonas Smith — and Smith's campaign was reluctant to concede even after all polls had reported.

According to unofficial results on election day, Bagnell finished with just 72 votes more than Smith — 6,849 to 6,777. Those results subsequently changed on Tuesday, after special ballots were counted it was determined that there was a 164-vote spread between Bagnell and Smith.

The two were jockeying for the lead in the initial vote tally. As poll results came in, Smith would take a narrow lead only to be quickly overtaken by Bagnell. Then Smith would pull ahead again. At times, they were separated by just one or two votes.

Bagnell eventually maintained a steady lead over Smith, but a slim one — less than a percentage point. Both steadily hovered around 33 per cent in the vote count. 

Speaking at his victory party, Bagnell thanked and congratulated his opponents "for keeping our democracy strong." 

He also celebrated his party's re-election, calling it a "fantastic victory."

"It's a victory so we can really keep on helping the people in need," he said.

Even though Bagnell holds onto his seat, his support in Yukon has softened since 2015. He won that election by nearly 6,000 votes, easily unseating Conservative Ryan Leef. 

Before the 2015 election, Bagnell had been Yukon MP from 2000 to 2011. 

Bagnell's lead in the vote count is enough to avoid a judicial recount. According to Elections Canada, a recount must take place if candidates' results are separated by less than one one-thousandth of the total votes cast. According to unofficial results, 20,490 votes were cast in Yukon, meaning a recount would happen if the spread was fewer than 20 votes.   

Smith campaign holds out

Once the results were in, Smith addressed his supporters and campaign workers. He congratulated his opponents and raised a toast to the Yukon.

He also suggested that the race was not quite over. 

"It's been a confusing night for a lot of people, including those at Elections Canada. So, we're all still kind of waiting to see what tomorrow holds," he said. 

Conservative candidate Jonas Smith speaks to supporters and campaign workers after the results were in on Monday night. (Chris Windeyer/CBC)

Smith's campaign workers maintained that they were not yet ready to concede. They argued that ballots from Yukoners living abroad, along with votes from military personnel and prisoners had not been counted yet — and the margin was small enough that those votes could be consequential.

Speaking to CBC, Bagnell just shrugged.

"Well, that's fine. Everything should be counted," he said.

The NDP's Justin Lemphers, however, did concede. He finished in third place, with 4,475 votes — about 21.8 per cent of the votes cast.

"This has been one hell of a journey," he told his supporters after the results were in. "And you know what? We kicked ass."

'We kicked ass,' said NDP candidate Justin Lemphers. (Mike Rudyk/CBC)

'Soul-searching' for Greens

Lenore Morris of the Greens was in fourth with 2,109 votes (10.3 per cent). 

She said afterwards that the future for the Greens is unclear.

"This should have been a year for a breakthrough and it wasn't. So it's really hard to say. I think there is going to have to be a lot of soul-searching within the party in the next year." 

Joseph Zelezny of the People's Party finished fifth, with 280 votes (1.4 per cent). 

He suggested that his party had been unfairly targeted by the media and other groups.

"Nonetheless, the country knows about our existence, and considering it's been less than one year, I think we've done phenomenally well — and this is just the beginning," he said. 

With files from Chris Windeyer, Steve Silva, Dave Croft, Mike Rudyk and Kaila Jefferd-Moore


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