Why would Cullen want leader’s job?

Malcolm Baxter wonders why on earth the MP would want the federal NDP leadership.

They say a week in politics is a long time but now, even after more than a month, I wonder how Nathan Cullen is doing on deciding whether he’ll take a run at the federal NDP leadership or not.

When the federal NDP gathered in Edmonton and voted to give current leader Tom Mulcair  the boot, it took a nanosecond for the speculation to start on who his successor would be.

And, no surprise, the list included Skeena’s own MP Nathan Cullen.

That was predictable given he is a House of Commons veteran  going on 12 years, is apparently well-liked on the Hill including even by members of other parties and, most important, had surprised many with his strong third place showing in the last leadership vote.

But I find myself asking why on earth he would ever want the job.

In the last election the Conservative vote essentially fell to its bedrock level and it can expect, assuming it doesn’t pick an utterly disastrous new leader, that vote will at a minimum pretty much hold in 2019.

So the only way the New Democrats can get out of third place is to take mega votes from the Libs.

I give you two words to explain why that will not happen: Leap Manifesto.

This starry-eyed clarion call to declare holy war on greenhouse gas emissions was debated at the NDP convention. It proposes that within 20 years every single kilowatt hour of electricity used across Canada will come from renewable resources.

And that by 2050 the use of fossil fuels will be zero.

But the real vote killer is the demand that no new projects that involve using non-renewable resources – including pipelines – be permitted starting immediately.

Which, for example, would translate to no LNG plants ever being built in the northwest.

So the party that claims to represent the workers who would earn good money building and operating those projects and the First Nations which will benefit from them are going to be kicked to the curb?

I am reminded of the 1983 election in Britain when, still smarting from its defeat by Maggie Thacher in the previous election, the Labour Party ran on a New Hope for Britain manifesto which was a violent lurch to the left.

One of its own MPs, Gerald Kaufman, described it as the longest suicide note in history. He was not wrong: Labour was massacred. The Leap Manifesto may be shorter, but the effect will be the same, a leap into electoral oblivion.

So I repeat, why on earth would Cullen want the job?

The fascinating thing was that one of the speakers at the convention who made plain her opposition to Leap was a certain Rachel Notley, premier of Alberta’s, yes, NDP government.

Pointing out that her government had put forward and was implementing a concrete plan, she added, “That is what you do when you move up from manifestos to the detailed, principled, active plans you can really implement by winning an election.”

In other words adopt Leap as party policy and you’ll never win an election and therefore will never be able to implement anything.

Meanwhile in another part of Politics Town federal environment minister Catherine McKenna was singing a similar tune.

Speaking at a town hall meeting with Gina McCarthy of the US Environmental Protection Agency, she said, “[Canada] didn’t get into fossil fuels overnight and we’re not going to get out of them [overnight].”

And a Canadian Press story reports “sources” saying prime minister Justin Trudeau has instructed his senior lieutenants to come with a plan that would see both the Energy East and the Kinder Morgan expansion in BC go through, which will be music to the ears of Notley.

So we have the centrist federal Liberals in favour of the Kinder Morgan expansion, we have the left wing Albert government in favour of the Kinder Morgan expansion and yet we have the right wing BC government at this moment opposed to that same project.

As a friend of mine commented, “It makes no sense.”

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