Stikine MLA Doug Donaldson points to a slide during his presentation on proportional representation to about 30 people in Northwest Community College in Smithers last Thursday. (Chris Gareau photo)

MP Cullen takes on new BC liaison role to help with proportional representation

A big part of the job will be to help the BC NDP government in its effort to change how people vote.

The federal NDP have appointed Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen to the new position of B.C. liaison.

Cullen stepped down from his ethics portfolio but will hold onto his democratic reform role, which is no coincidence. A big part of the job will be to help the BC NDP government in its effort to change how people vote to a proportional system.

“The conversation [on creating this position] actually started organically from that. B.C. and I had some conversations very early on just after their election. Any help I can offer just because we had so much experience on this, I’d spent so much time and I just didn’t want to see it go to waste in terms of all the research and all the connections and the opportunities,” explained Cullen.

“B.C.’s different, will have a different view on things than the rest of Canada as it always does. The voting system we come up with will also be naturally different. So there’s no imposition, it’s just that we spent a ton of time talking about this, reaching out to groups around the world.”

NDP Stikine MLA Doug Donaldson held a meeting in Smithers last Thursday to explain the process leading up to the fall referendum on whether to change how we vote. He welcomes Cullen’s help.

“Nathan travelled the country as the vice chair of a federal investigation into electoral reform, so I don’t see it as a party thing, I see it as a great resource. And we have someone not just from the North but someone from B.C. who has a head full of knowledge and can help us shape how we’re going to do electoral reform in this province,” said Donaldson after the meeting.

A member of the audience at Thursday’s meeting on electoral reform did ask about how much input other parties and perspectives are reaching the government during the process that will lead to the referendum question. The Interior News asked Donaldson if his government would reach out to other parties federally or provincially.

“I read the federal report [on electoral reform] and it was headed by a Liberal and had people from all political parties on it. What the engagement process that I talked about today has is the ability for written submissions, and I know that the BC Liberal party will be making a written submission, as will the BC NDP as will our caucus, as will their caucus. So we’ll be getting a lot of different opinions into the process,” said Donaldson.

“It’s up to the independent, neutral Attorney General’s Office to summarize those and then bring it to cabinet.”

The NDP Attorney General is not to be involved in cabinet discussions about the referendum question.

Cullen for his part said the federal NDP liaison position is about more than just proportional representation, and a similar position is being talked about for Alberta.

“That is something that is being contemplated right now,” said Cullen.

More information on the Province’s effort leading up to the referendum, different proposed voting systems, and an opportunity to give input are available at engage.gov.bc.ca/howwevote.

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