Last Thursday the federal Conservative government tabled its budget and Nathan Cullen, MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley was not impressed with what he heard.
“I’m desperate for something positive in this budget,” Cullen, a member of the NDP official opposition said.
Among the budget items that disappointed Cullen is the trimming of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans budget by $80 million, at a time when both fisheries and oceans are under increasing pressure.
“There wasn’t any fat to cut to begin with,” Cullen said.
Also of concern for Cullen was the proposed 24-month cap on environmental reviews of major resource development projects.
“They’re proposing to change the rules midstream,” Cullen said, referring to the current joint panel review of the Northern Gateway project proposed by Enbridge.
“It backs people who are opposed to this in a corner, it limits the debate.
The cap, Cullen noted, won’t save money.
With less debate, the cap will not be good for business or the environment, Cullen argued, because approving bad projects is going to cost taxpayers multiple times more than any savings in having a shorter review process.
Cullen also questioned cuts to law enforcement including the prison system, noting it was somewhat ironic given Stephen Harper’s Conservative government promised to get tough on crime during the election campaign.
“It runs counter to what they propose in Bill C10,” Cullen said.
“This is a dump of expenditures onto the provinces.”
On a personal note, Cullen decried the cutting of the Katimavik program, a program he took part in as a youth.
“It’s hard to keep this country all stitched together, but one of the ways you do that is you have Canadians meet other Canadians,” Cullen said.
“The Katimavik program has been an overwhelming success for decades.”
Cullen felt the program was especially beneficial to rural communities where youth may not have the money or opportunity to travel and see the rest of the country.
“I’m ashamed of the government,” Cullen said.
“It’s a program that helped keep the country together.
“It was huge, it was life-changing for people.”
Looking back at the NDP leadership race where he finished third, Cullen was upbeat and positive.
“It was a wild ride,” he admitted.
The best part of the process, Cullen said, was how much he was able to talk about his riding.
“Our home became the centrepiece of everything I talked about,” he said.
“Whether it was the economy or the environment, I took my lessons from the northwest and I made the story about the northwest.
“We didn’t win, but we did some good things.”