Nathan Cullen has announced his candidacy for the NDP leadership.

Nathan Cullen has announced his candidacy for the NDP leadership.

Cullen joins race for federal NDP leader

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen has made official his candidacy to run for leader of the federal NDP.

  • Sep. 30, 2011 4:00 p.m.

Nathan Cullen will never get too big for the Northwest.

After making the announcement last Friday that he will be seeking the NDP leadership post, left vacant after the passing of Jack Layton, he told The Interior News that one of the draws of getting onto the federal stage was to bring Northwest issues to light nationally.

“I feel comfortable and very encouraged about promoting Skeena to a larger audience,” he said.

Cullen made his announcement from the Simon Fraser University campus in Vancouver.

He received many endorsements from provincial NDP members — he was introduced at his press conference by Stikine MLA Robin Austin — and said in the coming weeks there will be more people coming forward from the federal fold.

“It will be about a six month steady diet of hitting the road, talking to people of all shapes and going well beyond just the Democratic family but to progressive people in general,” he said about his upcoming tour of Canada.

The main message he’s seeking to communicate is that his will be a different style of politics than what people get from Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.

“The politics can be done differently and more effectively. We don’t have to believe that the Harper way of doing things is the only way.”

He’s hoping that with him people feel more welcome to participate in government issues.

Among the issues he plans to take with him nationally are good climate policy, sustainable economy and environmental protection, as well as First Nations rights and title.

“We’re going to roll policy out as we go. I think there’s going to be lots of time in the next six, seven months to talk about different things and I’m really encouraged by the debate,” he said.

Asked whether his messages would be well received in other, eastern parts of the country, he said they would and attitudes are changing.

“People are really evolving in this conversation. They don’t buy the old ‘choose your job or clean air but you can’t have both’. That has to be a dead way of doing things. We can do better and we have to do better,” he said. “I find there’s lots of encouragement from all sectors of the country for that kind of discussion.”

He admits that if he makes it to the leadership post it will somewhat change the dynamic of the work he does as an MP, namely a change in his current personal policy of trying to be back in the riding every weekend.

“It’s just the logistics of such a broad country,” he said.

That being the case, he said the Northwest is where he comes back to ground himself and so will always be making the effort to come home.

Cullen, 39, was elected for the fourth time this past spring, capturing 50 per cent of the vote.

He is, for the moment, the only candidate for the leadership from western Canada.

Cullen and other candidates will spend the next months lining up supporters leading to a convention in March.