FLANKED BY supporters, Skeena - Bulkley Valley NDP MP Nathan Cullen ended widespread speculation to announce he is running for the leadership of his party.
In both English and in French, Cullen said he was appealing to a wide spectrum of Canadians.
Among his supporters at the event, which was held in Vancouver, were a large contingent of First Nations people, including several representatives of the Nisga'a Nation from his riding in northwestern B.C.
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.
A leadership race was made necessary when Jack Layton died Aug. 22.
Cullen and other candidates will spend the next months lining up supporters leading to a convention in March.
Asked if it would be difficult to lead the NDP from the western edge of the country, Cullen said he sees much opportunity because after growing up in one of Canada's biggest cities he now represents one of its most remote and beautiful regions.
Cullen accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper of practising the politics of division and said he would bring a much different approach.
"Common interests are much stronger than the small divisions that get exploited by traditional politics," Cullen said.
"We have to grow those things that connect us, not tear them apart," he said.
Those who don't already know him are "going to get to know me," Cullen said.
"My sincere commitment to a new form of politics, to a way to find us working together instead of apart, is something I've practised my entire life, both in Canada and abroad."
First Nations supporters at the Cullen announcement included 16 representatives of the Nisga'a Nation.
The following is the text of Cullen's announcement speech
Seven years ago the people of Skeena-Bulkley Valley honoured me to be their voice in the house of commons.
I was 31 years old at the time. I had little to no formal political experience. Not a lot of name recognition across the Northwest of B.C. and no political machine to speak of.
But through the course of our campaign the people of the Northwest began to believe that something better was possible. My riding is a long way from Ottawa and sometimes I think that's an advantage. Because the politics that I've learned from the people in the north is to do things differently.
And in fact in the seven years since being elected I've learned that politics can work right across this country. We've all seen politicians tell us what they think we want to hear. We've watched leaders change their values and blow in the wind like a political weather vane. And we know that time and time again this has failed our country.
I also represent a riding with some of the oldest and proudest First Nations traditions in the world. And it has been my honour to be mentored by some of the greatest leaders in our country. They've made me a better person, they've made me a better politician. They've taught me the meanings of the word respect, dignity, and passion in public life. It's shown me that working with others truly does pay off.
As I look at our government now, I think it simply doesn't work. And this is why it's time to start an honest discussion about the direction that politics should take and how we need to change it for the better. Because I believe that truth has a crucial and huge place in politics. And the truth I continue to believe in since I was elected, it's time to change the way we do politics.
This country simply doesn't have any time to lose. The urgency of this moment demands that we act together. We can't afford eight more years of Stephen Harper. That's why today I am proud to announce my candidacy to be the next leader of Canada's New Democratic Party.
Compiled with files from Jeff Nagel, Black Press.