SKEENA - Bulkley Valley NDP MP Nathan Cullen hands out Canadian flag lapel pins during the 2016  Riverboat Days parade.

SKEENA - Bulkley Valley NDP MP Nathan Cullen hands out Canadian flag lapel pins during the 2016 Riverboat Days parade.

Northwestern B.C. NDP MP still not interested in leadership bid

And bloom is coming off the Prime Ministers's rose, says Nathan Cullen

  • Jan. 20, 2017 5:00 p.m.

NOPE. Still not interested.

After a year in which the federal NDP rejected leader Tom Mulcair and then set in motion a lengthy search for a replacement which so far has produced no candidates, Skeena – Bulkley Valley NDP MP Nathan Cullen remains steadfast in his decision not to run for the top spot.

That’s despite Cullen’s growing reputation in Ottawa, being named consistently as one of the top performers in Parliament and even being regarded as one of the best leaders the federal NDP never had.

“I’ve not changed my mind,” said Cullen in a late December 2016 interview and a second one this month reflecting on events and issues of the past year.

Cullen leapt into prominence in 2012 when the federal NDP chose Mulcair to replace the late Jack Layton by running third.

He had considered running following Mulcair’s rejection by party members last spring but decided that family – his twin boys have now started school – and his riding which he has held since 2004 are more important.

A renewed leadership bid and the subsequent demands if he won didn’t stack up against his family and riding, Cullen said.

“You have to be all in,” he noted.

Pacific Northwest LNG

The federal and provincial governments may have given the proposed Petronas-backed Pacific NorthWest LNG planned for Lelu Island near Port Edward the environmental green light, but Cullen remained opposed chiefly because it would involve a berthing facility stretching over adjacent Flora Bank, regarded as crucial habitat for juvenile salmon.

“Wrong location,” said Cullen, adding he could never understand why Petronas went along with the location through encouragement by the federal government.

The project is now being challenged in the courts by environmental groups and members of the Tsimshian First Nation and some Gitxsan and Gitanyow house groups upstream who say Skeena River salmon would be threatened.

“Why Petronas would do so knowing the opposition, I don’t know,” said Cullen.

“And I don’t understand why Petronas would want to spend more than $1 billion,” he continued of the projected berthing location cost.

But a late December news report indicating Pacific NorthWest LNG was considering a new berthing location, this time on nearby Ridley Island at a spot where a potash export facility had been contemplated, has Cullen leaning toward changing his mind.

“I would still need to talk to the folks on Lelu,” said Cullen of a group of Tsimshian and others who had erected a protest camp there.

“But this is encouraging. Companies always do better when they listen to people,” he said.

Cullen did add that should Petronas ultimately decide a new berthing location is wanted, it would need to go through an environmental assessment.

Justin Trudeau

The bloom is coming off Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s rose with him now being caught up in controversies such as having intimate suppers with people who donate to the federal Liberal party in return, says Cullen.

“Oh, I think it’s a crack in the veneer,” said Cullen of what’s being called “cash for access.”

“What does it say when you have supper with a Chinese billionaire?”

Cullen’s particularly focused on Trudeau’s past affinity for doing business with China, something that’s due to grow now that he’s named a veteran former Liberal cabinet minister, John McCallum, as Canada’s next ambassador to that country.

And while not completely opposed to the prospect of Chinese investment in Canada, he notes China doesn’t welcome foreign investment in return.

“It is a communist dictatorship,” said Cullen.

And with American president-elect Donald Trump appearing to be ready to tackle China on any number of trade issues, Canada will be in an interesting, if vulnerable position, he continues.

“I think we’re going to have to tread very lightly here. China is a very, very powerful dictatorship,” Cullen said.

Electoral Reform

A key member of the all-party parliamentary committee on electoral reform, created by the federal government following the Liberal 2015 campaign promise that the election of that year would be the last held by winner-take-all “first past the post”, Cullen toured extensively last year to gather public opinion.

He favours a form of proportional representation so that voters are represented in Parliament according to total votes cast.

A voter, knowing that his or her ballot would count when it came to seats in Parliament, would do much to reverse low voting turnouts, Cullen believes.

The federal government late last year rejected the committee’s majority report which called for a referendum on replacing first past the post without specifying an exact alternative, angering Cullen and other committee members.

“They were the ones that made the promise,” said Cullen of the plank in the 2015 Liberal campaign platform. “And now this.”

What struck Cullen was the contrast between the federal government rejection and the level of engagement shown by people who turned out at parliamentary committee cross-country meetings to discuss electoral reform.

“People want to believe that their vote is going to be counted (in Parliament),” he said.

Following the report rejection, the Liberal government promised to introduce electoral reform legislation this spring.

But that was made by Maryam Monsef, the cabinet minister for democratic reform who was shuffled out of that position this month.

Cullen says he’s waiting for spring to see what the Liberals may have in mind.