THE NORTHWEST could have a national party leader to call its own and, if he has his way, a prime minster, too.
Skeena NDP MP Nathan Cullen is spending the next couple of weeks thinking about running for job left vacant when Jack Layton passed away last month.
Cullen said party members are now thinking about a leadership race after first getting over the shock of Layton’s death from cancer.
“I’ve been thinking about it for the last few days. I’m going to spend a couple of weeks and see if it’s the right fit,” said Cullen late last week.
“I’ve always admired folks who’ve taken on the role but it’s a huge commitment.”
Cullen said he was a longtime friend of Layton and was expecting to have years ahead of Layton as federal NDP party leader and maybe even as prime minster.
“For the first time I can legitimately say this is what it’s about,” he said about the next federal election and the possibility of the NDP topping the polls.
“It’s got that kind of significance to it,” he said about the next federal election.
Cullen said he would develop a more collaboratative approach to running the federal government, a trait now missing under Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper. “It would have to be. It’s not only my nature but it’s the right kind of leadership,” Cullen said of his style.
When the provincial NDP leadership came up for grabs last year, Cullen received emails from around the province urging him to run.
But Cullen cited unfinished commitments to his federal constituents and family responsibilities as the father of infant twin boys as the key reasons for his decision.
Cullen said it was important to complete the projects he was working on, and not to use his political position as a stepping stone to another position. But with the federal leadership, he says he wants to give it proper consideration first and speak to his wife.
“I do want to make the call quite soon,” he said in estimating the leadership race will officially begin next spring.
Cullen imagines that, as federal NDP leader, he would spend less time in the constituency here and possible have less parliamentary work.
“I treat working the northwest and time in the northwest as sacred. You never want to lose touch with the people you represent,” he said.
As for how well he speaks French, it’s okay but he’s working on it.
“A reporter in Ottawa said my French is as good as Chretien’s English,” he said, adding his French teacher grimaces at his grammar.
Cullen doesn’t think a challenge of the federal leadership would be to keep the Quebec NDP MPs on side with the national party. It’s been thought by some that Quebec voted more for Layton than the NDP but Cullen disagrees.
“…but they also knew what Jack represented and what they stand for,” he said, adding the NDP social democratic philosophy has been in line with Quebecers for a long time.
“One thing out of all of this is I get to bring the issues of Skeena to the national stage even more,” he said if he were to become national NDP leader.
“As we begin to debate what kind of leader the party wants and the country wants, where you come from is part of that dialogue.”
Cullen is among six or seven people said to be thinking of campaigning for the national leadership.