SKEENA-BULKLEY Valley NDP MP Nathan Cullen has been named as House leader for the official opposition in the House of Commons.
NDP opposition leader Tom Mulcair, in making the appointment, described Cullen as a “great debater.”
“Nathan has shown a great capacity to involve people in the political process. His persuasiveness, his innovative thinking and his respect for others are his hallmarks,” Mulcair said.
Cullen, first elected in 2004 and then re-elected in 2006, 2008 and in 2011, ran third in the March NDP leadership contest.
That placement raised his national profile and put him on Mulcair’s short list for senior appointments.
Mulcair also named three MPs from different parts of the country as deputy leaders, helping to make the case that the NDP is a nationally-based party.
Mulcair himself is from Quebec and the party’s breakthrough there in the 2011 federal election propelled it into Official Opposition status with 103 seats in the House of Commons.
Cullen’s appointment comes with a salary bump, resulting in a pay packet of nearly $200,000 a year.
Cullen makes $157,731 as a Member of Parliament and will make an additional $39,179 as NDP House leader for a total of $196,910.
Cullen said he was excited about the new position which he officially takes on this week.
“There’s going to be a lot of strategy and a lot of negotiating with government,” said Cullen of the position.
As House leader, Cullen is the manager of his party’s affairs in the House of Commons.
He conceded that the position will require toughness as well as being tactful.
“You want to stop the bad stuff from happening and you want to make Parliament work,” Cullen added.
He’s already anticipating one of his first challenges – legislative changes the federal government wants to make to quicken the pace of environmental reviews of industrial projects.
The federal government is arguing that the current system in which there is no time limit and which involves a multitude of departments takes too long and is too bulky.
“A review of assessments and how we do them to make them more efficient – that’s not a problem. But it’s not the point. It’s a totally different thing to make changes to approve any and all oil and gas projects without a public discussion taking place,” said Cullen.
He said there has to be an expectation in a democracy that any and all voices are heard.
Cullen set himself apart during the NDP leadership race by calling for closer co-operation during election campaigns between the other political parties opposed to Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.
Specifically, Cullen advocated holding joint nomination meetings in ridings to choose one person to go up against that riding’s Conservative candidate. The idea was not universally accepted by the other leadership hopefuls.