Local MP Nathan Cullen might not be the leader of the federal NDP party — but his third-place ranking in last week’s leadership race means he was one of the top contenders.
Of seven vying for the leadership role to the federal Conservatives’ official opposition, Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Cullen’s popularity climbed past what had first been expected by political pundits in Canada.
He was dubbed a wild-card contender March 24th when he made it to the third ballot alongside long-time NDP organizer Brian Topp and now leader Thomas Mulcair, a Montreal MP.
Votes of support for various contenders rolled in during last Saturday’s NDP leadership convention held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Cullen was eliminated from the race after the third ballot — after which he could have directed his supporters toward either remaining contender.
Instead, he released them to choose for themselves.
“I trust them,” he said, adding he was “humbled” by the experience and a “democrat at [his] heart.”
Throughout the race, Cullen’s supporters chanted his name and carried green signs with his name on them.
After the first ballots, he received 10,671 votes for (16.39 per cent of the vote), behind Topp’s 13,915 votes (21.37 per cent) in second and Mulcair topped the votes with 19,728 (30.3 per cent). Peggy Nash came fourth with 8,353 votes for 12.83 per cent.
The three remaining candidates, Paul Dewar, Martin Singh and Niki Ashton, did not proceed.
The second ballot saw Cullen get 10,519 votes (16.8 per cent), Brian Topp with 15,624 votes (25 per cent) and Thomas Mulcair with 23,902 votes (38.3 per cent).
Nash was ousted that round and she released her supporters.
Cullen placed third again after the third ballot with 15,426 votes (24.6 per cent) behind Topp’s 19,822 (31.6 per cent) and Mulcair’s 27,488 votes (43.8 per cent).
After the fourth ballots, Mulcair became the newest leader of the federal NDP party since Jack Layton’s death August 22, 2011.
And while Cullen might not be leader, his third-place ranking is still a victory said many after the race, including the NDP president of the Skeena-Bulkley Valley riding Arjunna Miyagawa.
“Regardless of the outcome, this is a huge win for Nathan Cullen,” said Miyagawa.
“He has ultimately raised the profile of the Skeena-Bulkley Valley riding and the issues of Canadians across the country,” he said. Terrace’s mayor Dave Pernarowski agrees.
“Everywhere he went he talked about northwestern B.C.,” he said. “I think Nathan did a wonderful job.
“He is clearly a candidate that has shown a great deal of honesty and integrity throughout the campaign.”
Late federal NDP leader Jack Layton’s widow Olivia Chow also congratulated Cullen on his campaign, saying he was “such a class act,” who championed the environment, oceans, food security and the economy.
Cullen said getting praise from her was fantastic.