Northwestern B.C. NDP MP deals with new faces both in Victoria and in Ottawa

Nathan Cullen says he wants good working relationships

SKEENA – Bulkley Valley NDP MP Nathan Cullen says he looks forward to working with new players on the provincial government scene.

“I’ve always got along well with Ellis [Ross],” Cullen commented on the election of the former Haisla chief councillor as the BC Liberal MLA for Skeena, ending a 12-year run when the riding was held by provincial New Democrat Robin Austin.

“I’m really not anticipating any problems. I sent him a note after his win.”

Cullen said he found Ross to be straight forward and focussed on jobs during his tenure as Haisla chief councillor.

They also, Cullen continued, share a passion for basketball.

Ross is the only new MLA within the four provincial ridings inside Cullen’s much larger Skeena – Bulkley Valley federal riding. New Democrats Jennifer Rice (North Coast) and Doug Donaldson (Stikine) were reelected along with BC Liberal John Rustad (Nechako Lakes).

Cullen’s also expecting a good working relationship with what appears to be a minority NDP provincial government supported by the Greens.

“I think it’s important to have a working relationship no matter who is in [the provincial] government,” said Cullen of his role as the region’s federal representative.

And he’s focussing on several key aspects for the northwest when it comes to dealing with any provincial government.

“Better First Nations relationships, listening to communities and resource sharing,” said Cullen.

The NDP MP said it will be particularly interesting to see how a NDP minority government supported by the Greens deals with the prospect of a LNG industry in the northwest.

But he also has a warning for Justin Trudeau’s federal Liberal government if it tries to push through construction of the Kinder Morgan oil pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby given that both the provincial NDP and Greens are saying they oppose the project.

“They may be constitutionally correct,” said Cullen of federal jurisdiction over pipelines spanning provincial boundaries. “But it would be political suicide.”

If there are new faces in Victoria for Cullen to deal with, the same is taking place in Ottawa with Saskatchewan MP Andrew Scheer being selected to lead the Conservative party and become Official Leader of the Opposition.

At 38, Scheer is a full six years younger than Cullen (and seven years younger than Prime Minister Justin Trudeau).

What Cullen and Scheer have in common is that both were first elected in 2004.

And Cullen also notes both have young families, Cullen twin boys who are nearly seven and Scheer five children, all under the age of 12.

“I get along well with Andrew,” said Cullen.

But he did add he and Scheer come from different political backgrounds.

“I suspect I don’t have the same socon base,” said Cullen in using the shorthand for social conservative voters.

It was support from that spectrum which helped Scheer ultimately gain the leadership of the Conservative party.

Cullen said Scheer will be a tough adversary leading toward and during the 2019 federal election campaign for both the NDP and the current Liberal government.