He may be on the opposition side of the House of Commons, but Nathan Cullen is happy to be named House Leader for the NDP.
“It’s super exciting, it’s a big step,” Cullen, MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley, said of his appointment to House Leader for the official Opposition New Democrat Party last Thursday by newly-minted party leader Thomas Mulcair.
“It’s one of the more powerful positions in government.”
The appointment as House Leader, puts Cullen in the front benches and in the middle of the action in the House of Commons, something, Cullen said, would allow him to bring greater awareness to the Bulkley Valley-Stikine riding.
“This is great news for northwest B.C,” Cullen said.
“This brings the northwest agenda front and center.”
Among his goals as House Leader for the official Opposition in parliament, Cullen said at the top of his list was to prevent the passage of bad legislation and at the same time working with the Conservative government to get good legislation through the House of Commons.
Among the first pieces of legislation Cullen includes the recent amendments to environmental assessment requirements which limit the duration of assessments to 24 months and eliminate the involvement of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Legislation affecting the environmental assessments is expected to hit the floor of the House of Commons this week.
The federal government has also served notice it now reserves the right to overturn environmental assessment decisions made by the National Energy Board, the government branch currently responsible for environmental assessments.
“It’s [environmental assessment approval] become a political decision,” Cullen explained.
“The credibility of the panel is destroyed.”
At the same time, Cullen added, the Conservative government has eliminated the potential for a rapid response to an oil spill along the west coast with the transfer of the West Coast naval intelligence centre to the east coast.
Considering the Auditor General of Canada reported in 2010 the Coast Guard and Environment Canada are not in a position to protect the coastal waters off the coast of British Columbia, the decision to move the naval intelligence office makes no sense, Cullen said.
“They’re [Conservative government] putting oceans at risk,” Cullen said.
“It smacks of arrogance.”
Cullen added, the actions of the Government of Canada leavelittle sense of a commitment to Canada, nor a willingness to protect Canada, nor protecting our interests.
“[Stephen] Harper’s been only too happy to oblige,” he said.
“Exporting raw resources does not build an exonomy, it destroys an economy.”
As House Leader for the New Democrat Party, Cullen said his first priority was to meet with his team and then begin planning Opposition strategy as well as developing ways he could engage Canadians in his role as House Leader.
Cullen also spoke to recent government announcements regarding the closing of several penitentiaries.
The move, Cullen said, made no sense in the light of the Conservative’s tough on crime stance.
“I have no idea what they’re thinking,” he said.