“Everything has changed.”: Cullen on political shake-up

“So much for an election of no purpose. Everybody said that nothing would change and everything has changed.”

That was Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen’s ebullient reaction to the national result in the May 2 federal election.

“Give us another week and it would have been a different kind of government,” he added.

Cullen admitted he could not have predicted the Liberals would collapse to the extent they did and that “a significant amount” of their past voters would move to the Conservatives.

And while the NDP’s numbers told them they were going to do well in Quebec, the extent of the New Democrat sweep was another surprise.

“Momentum is a funny thing is politics. When it takes off, it really takes off,” he said, adding it was reminiscent of the way the Reform Party burst on the scene in Western Canada in the 1990s.

As for the number of inexperienced rookies that will be on the NDP benches as a result of the Quebec results, Cullen said, “I’ve already listened to the interviews of some of them and they’re fantastic, even though they are young.”

Laughing, he added, “An infusion of young people into Parliament can only help — as if we needed more old people.”

Cullen noted that this will be the first Parliament he has served in that has had a majority government.

And what that translates into will depend on what kind of prime minister Stephen Harper wants to be.

“In some senses he has a different kind of challenge,” Cullen said, explaining Harper’s line with his supporters on some of the more sensitive issues had been ‘we can’t do that because of the minority status’.

“It was a convenient excuse.”

But that excuse was gone and therefore Cullen expected there would be a lot of pressure on Harper from his base to start to do things.

“I’m curious to see how he will balance that,” Cullen said.

While not surprised at the gracious tone of Harper’s election night speech, “it did make me write down every commitment because that’s exactly what he needs to do.”

Cullen said if Harper was sincere in his promise to represent all Canadians, not just his supporters, “Then we’ll be able to get some work done.”

If, however, Harper chose to be hyper-partisan, “then he’s going to have a fight on his hands and we’re a lot tougher opposition than the Liberals,” he added.

And Harper would end up being a one term wonder.

While a stable government might improve the opportunities for long term planning, one potential result of a majority that concerned Cullen was, knowing it didn’t have to face the voters for four years, government would slow things down.

Cullen explained minority governments tended to be nervous and “nervous governments jump to action more often.”

Saying he wanted to see swift decisions on items such as “significant” mines proposed for the Northwest and the securing of the Northwest Transmission Line, Cullen added that if the pace of government action did slow, it would hurt Skeena-Bulkley Valley “because investors won’t wait.”

Returning to the overall results and the implications of such a wholesale change, Cullen wondered, “Are we shaping up much more like a British system where Conservatives and Labour battle it out and the mushy middle isn’t much of a factor?”

And the tipping point question was, “Are we the government in waiting?”


<i>-Malcolm Baxter</i>