SKEENA NDP MP Nathan Cullen says he’s leaning toward not taking a run at his party’s leadership.
The long-serving MP whose name was immediately mentioned as a potential successor to Tom Mulcair when the NDP voted in favour of finding a new leader earlier this year, compared his thinking to that of the needle in the colour-coded scale used to indicate forest fire danger ratings.
“Right now I’d say I’d be in the orange leading to red,” said Cullen.
First elected as the NDP MP for Skeena in 2004, Cullen’s national profile has increased steadily and he became well known when he finished a strong third in the last NDP leadership race in 2012.
That was won by Mulcair who took the NDP into last fall’s election with high hopes of forming the next government. But the party fell to third place, sparking a leadership review vote resulting in the decision to replace Mulcair.
The position itself doesn’t faze Cullen but if he does run and is elected as the leader of the federal NDP, he’s worried about how the job might affect his family.
The Cullens have twin boys who will be six this summer and about to enter grade one.
“That’s what gives me pause, the impact on my family and being what’s most important, a good parent,” he said.
“I’d say that would be the single biggest concern right now,” he said.
Cullen noted he already does a lot of travelling given his riding is among the largest in the country and is one of the farthest away from Ottawa.
And Cullen said he’d have to take into account what residents of Skeena, people he calls his “boss”, might have to say.
“These are the people who hired me and, in this job, they are my first priority,” he said.
“Some like the idea of being in a riding where the MP would be the leader of a party because of the attention it would bring to rural issues,” said Cullen.
“Others say a MP in that position wouldn’t be able to pay attention to local issues,” he added.
Still, when weighing all of the factors, Cullen said he’s keeping an open mind. “There have been a lot of discussions with my family,” he said.
To date Cullen is not aware of any formal or informal group of NDP members forming to support a leadership bid.
“Some of the old [leadership] committee have called and said they’re ready to help,” said Cullen.
Senior NDP federal officials met over the weekend to thrash out when a leadership convention would be held and to set the rules for how the race would be run.
Speaking in advance of those deliberations, Cullen said his ultimate decision on running or not running wouldn’t depend on whether there a leadership convention is held sooner rather than later.