Cullen warms to leadership bid

MP Nathan Cullen is starting to come around to the idea of running for the leadership of the B.C. NDP.

MP Nathan Cullen is starting to come around to the idea of running for the leadership of the B.C. NDP.

Hot-button issues in the province such as development in the Sacred Headwater region, LNG and the Northern Gateway pipeline are some of the topics that are making the decision between Ottawa and Victoria difficult for him, he said.

In a media scrum last Thursday, Cullen shared his thoughts about the potential of becoming a leadership candidate.

“At first I was cool to the idea,” Cullen said. “But now, after receiving calls from a number of people, I have begun to consider the real possibility. Initially I thought this was a decision needing to be made in a week or two, but it will definitely be made before Christmas. I’m trying to be calm about it and make the right decision.”

There are some determining factors which would prevent Cullen from choosing to run, he said.

“If [the decision] would bring hardship to or threaten the happiness of my family,” Cullen said, adding that he isn’t concerned about the potential logistics of a campaign. “Politics comes and goes, but your family’s meant to stay. Also, if I felt like the work [in Ottawa] was more effective and more direct in affecting the things that I care about and the people I represent. If it felt like leadership in B.C. would take me down a different path away from that purpose, then I wouldn’t do it.”

But no matter what his decision is, Cullen said he feels the provincial party will be in good hands.

“I know a lot of the people whose names have been mentioned in the conversation,” he said.

“They are all formidable leaders and great voices in their own right. David Eby has been rumoured, one of the new MLAs, who this year took down Christy Clark in her own riding. So, there’s not a great worry in my mind that if I don’t go it’s going to be Bad News Bears.”

The leadership of the party is, however, not pulling the party apart, Cullen added.

“The dominant part of the conversation is about winning [the election] in four year’s time,” Cullen said. “We are less concerned with internal party politics as we are with the people’s politics.”

The current issue with the most traction is the dispute between Fortune Minerals’ anthracite coal venture and the Tahltan.

“First Nations have a Constitutional right to be consulted and accommodated and those things are sometimes achieved and sometimes they’re not,” he said. “When they’re not certainly First Nations have a strong authority.”

However, Cullen does not feel First Nations, like the Tahltan, have veto power on any proposed project if they have been consulted and accommodated properly.

“It is always in any company’s interest to make sure that [government] is doing the consultations and doing it well,” he said.

Cullen used Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project as a prime example of what not to do regarding social license-building with First Nations and said he hopes the burgeoning natural gas industry doesn’t follow suit.

“You don’t have to look further than Enbridge to find out what corporate hassle that can cause,” he said.

“It’s not the right way to go. It’s very expensive, causes a lot of uncertainty and a lot of grief. When good companies come forward and try to work with First Nations and try to understand the perspectives, generally speaking, there’s success that’s met.”