Just what is NDP’s vision for the Northwest?

Is there a prospect of a future leader of the Opposition representing Northern BC?

Is there a prospect of a future leader of the Opposition representing Northern BC?

It seems that Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen, from Smithers, is now checking out the possibility of  at least slipping a toe into the water – a step well ahead of tossing his hat into the ring in the upcoming leadership race within the New Democratic Party.

The CBC spent some time trying to get a grip on Cullen’s wrist last week, presumably with the intent of twisting his arm about the leadership race.

What they elicited was a reluctant admission that the thought has been rumbling around in Cullen’s mind for some time, including some reported off-the-cuff chats about being a “longer-term” leadership prospect, with no lesser personalities than Jack Layton and Ed Broadbent.

Now Cullen has gone on to say that he will take a “serious” look at this move. “I’m going to try and get across the country in the next couple of weeks and talk to friends and supporters, but also people who are of that progressive movement in Canada and see if they think my name in the ring would be a good idea,” he told the CBC as he tap-danced around the possibilities.

He has plenty of time and frankly, just simply in terms of our region having a “better-than-back-bench” representation in Ottawa, I’d like to see Cullen being a little more positive about his two-terms  experience and a little less “aw shucks … who? me?”

In the same breath as he says he can foresee a run at the leadership, he gets shy and says he sees himself as “just a kid from Toronto [who] moved to B.C., somehow got elected and tried my best to represent people. But I didn’t have any aspirations, let’s put it that way. I didn’t have a plan.”

Well, he has been MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley since 2004, and during these seven years in the House of Commons I could not say he has been overly assertive on our behalf.

I’m sure most Northerners who voted for Mr. Cullen don’t agree they were sending a humble “kid” from Toronto to Ottawa to represent this large, complicated and economically-challenged riding.

More of us, I believe would like to see him do more, be seen more and represent us more vociferously – and professionally on the issues that affect us.

A run at the opposition NDP leadership would give us all a whole lot better look at Mr. Cullen, who has until now enjoyed a “cool” time sitting a couple of rows behind Jack Layton.

Perhaps we could hear a lot more positive thoughtful approaches to some of the many issues that beset our region.

Skeena is not an easy riding to be in and much more difficult to be invisible in – especially at this time.

Northwestern BC is more and more “in the news” and Mr. Cullen’s current website tells us a lot more about what he is not in favour of than what he would like to see for the region in the coming four critical years.

His most recent posts show him chastising the federal government for its decision to withdraw from the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (PNCIMA) planning process, a joint effort by the federal, provincial and First Nations governments to obtain input from residents and stakeholders on a plan to protect the cultural, economic, and ecological health of the Pacific North Coast.

 

“The federal government’s sudden and unilateral withdrawal from the funding agreement smacks of political interference” says Mr. Cullen, who adds he felt “everybody has been in favour of this process. The provincial government wants it, First Nations want it – even the Department of Fisheries and Oceans wanted to continue. But the Prime Minister has put big oil company interests ahead of good policy and scuttled the plan.

“They’re clearly throwing a bone to their oil patch buddies and to Enbridge – trying to help them build a pipeline that nobody wants through one of the most beautiful and ecologically diverse places in Canada,” said Cullen.

“The government should immediately reverse its decision and come back to the table.”

He has certainly never been unequivocal about energy projects in BC. So, I think it is time for us to ask more of him – he is young, energetic and, for “a kid from Toronto”, has learned a lot about the Northwest.

His record shows him to be a fairly traditional  NDP member – concerned about people, concerned about communities, concerned about the environment and he is supportive of Jack Layton’s vision.

So, why not see how he carries some of the big West Coast issues in a meaningful “scrap” with like-thinkers.

Is there indeed a long-term future for northern BC, in fact all of BC in the NDP view of Canada?

I have little doubt that Mr. Cullen’s constituents would support his challenging for the leadership and I think they’d all like to see how he handles himself in competition.

So I say, go for it Nathan. It’ll certainly add interest to the race and give us all a better understanding of reasons to return you to Ottawa when we next go to the polls.

 

ahewitson@telus.net

 

 

 

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