NDP incumbent candidate Nathan Cullen opens his election office in Smithers Aug. 17.

NDP incumbent candidate Nathan Cullen opens his election office in Smithers Aug. 17.

Cullen runs on child care, value-added economy

NDP incumbent candidate Nathan Cullen makes his pitch for re-election.

Skeena-Bulkley Valley NDP incumbent Nathan Cullen said he is running on his record for the Oct. 19 election, but he has plenty of ways he wants to change the way government runs.

The NDP hopes to form the party’s first federal government after becoming the Official Opposition for the first time in 2011.

“Up here in Skeena and even federally we’re feeling strong and are willing to go toe-to-toe with anybody,” said Cullen.

“We’ll be scrutinized more, which I welcome, particularly on the economic front because I think that’s going to be a big issue,” said Cullen of his party’s higher poll numbers.

Cullen said people are welcoming some of his party’s economic plans.

“[Our plan] maybe surprises people a little bit around the economy when we talk about small business taxes and helping manufacturing. People are very welcoming because they want to see more support for that local economy,” said Cullen.

“Small business creates almost eight out of 10 new jobs, and we’ve lost almost half a million manufacturing jobs since Harper took over. So adding value to our natural resources seems to go across the spectrum. It’s not a classic left versus right debate, it’s right and wrong.”

With such a vast riding, Cullen said the issues vary from community to community, but added there are common things he is hearing at the door.

“The affordable child care has been huge on the doorstep. We walk people through how it would work and it is like left wing, right wing and centre people like it because whether you’ve got kids or you’re grandparents, or your neighbours are facing childcare challenges, this is an answer that you need to hear about,” said Cullen.

The incumbent also wants to open an inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women, and open what he described as government to government negotiations with Aboriginal peoples.

“That means settling the land question is the top priority, and it’s met at the senior levels, it’s not pawned off. That’s what First Nations have been looking for,” said Cullen.

With NDP leader Tom Mulcair saying he would only take part in debates with Stephen Harper and that there must be an equal number of French and English debates, Cullen assured voters there would be plenty of chances to contrast the party leaders.

“At least five where Tom’s going to be head-to-head with Harper,” said Cullen.

Cullen won the riding with over 55 per cent of the vote in 2011.