Cullen visits, islander to run for Rhinos

  • Apr. 6, 2011 4:00 p.m.

NDP candidate Nathan Cullen was on the islands this week as part of the campaign leading up to the federal election May 2. Mr. Cullen, who has been the MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley since 2004, arrived in Masset Tuesday afternoon. From there, he made his way south, campaigning in all communities, including a stop at the Job Fair in Queen Charlotte on Wednesday, then heading back to the mainland Thursday. “It’s going to be a whirlwindy kind of thing,” he told the Observer Monday. Eight days into the campaign, Mr. Cullen said he had already visited about 16 communities in the vast riding, putting 1,700 km on the odometer in his car-share Prius. This is Mr. Cullen’s fourth campaign, and he said it feels slightly different from previous ones. His opponents have been slower to come forward (the Liberals were without a candidate until a couple of days ago), and it seems that some communities in the riding are doing well economically. “It’s much more hopeful,” he said. “But the riding is so diverse… The issues coming up really vary from community to community.” Enbridge and the pipeline it wants to build from the tar sands to Kitimat is one issue that’s hot throughout the riding. Mr. Cullen said it seems people have made up their minds on the pipeline, with about two-thirds firmly opposed, and about 10 to 20 percent supporting it. Voters are not thrilled to be having another federal election, he said. But they do become more sympathetic when he explains what led up to the election call. The NDP offered the minority Conservative government a deal on the budget, but they refused, Mr. Cullen said. The Conservatives were also found in contempt of parliament for hiding spending. The issue is complex, Mr. Cullen said, but it boils down to the Conservatives hiding the amounts they plan to spend on prisons and fighter planes. Without these figures, it was difficult to make sense of the budget, he said. “To be responsible, you have to know what you are voting on,” he said. “It was unprecedented and dangerous… As a principle, I feel very comfortable saying I will not vote on a budget blindly.” Meanwhile, for the first time in many years, it looks like there will be an islander on the ballot. Laurence Knowles of Masset said he intends to run for the Rhino Party, and will be heading to Rupert Thursday to file his nomination papers and pay the nomination fee. He hasn’t raised the entire $1,000 yet, but said he was optimistic he’d find donors. Mr. Knowles said he got the idea of running from “watching the news and listening to all the bullshit… I’ve been missing the Rhino Party, because they have some humour.” Unemployed at the moment, Mr. Knowles said he will be campaigning on the islands and trying to get over to the mainland. One of his campaign platforms, he said, is a promise that if elected he will “kick Haida Gwaii out of Canada”. He’s also interested in generating revenue for the region by producing pornography here. “We’re after the protest vote,” he explained. In other election news, the Liberal Party has finally found a candidate willing to run in this riding: a 22-year-old political science student from UBC named Kyle Warwick. Mr. Warwick lives in Vancouver and won’t be able to get up to the riding until this weekend at the earliest, and likely not until April 20. He described himself as a very keen Liberal who has been an active volunteer for the past 10 years. He has worked on political campaigns before, at the municipal, provincial and federal level, most recently as a volunteer for Christy Clark’s leadership campaign. He said he’s not worried about the size of the riding, or the fact that he has no personal connection to it. “I do think it’s going to be tough, but it’s an exciting opportunity,” he said. “I’m aware that it’s a hard riding, for sure. I don’t have any illusions, but I am still going to run the strongest campaign that I can.” Mr. Warwick said he enjoys listening to people and plans to do a lot of listening rather than talking while on the campaign trail. “I understand the history of the riding, I understand the fact the other candidates have a lot more experience,” he said. “I think that some people might be resistant but it’s important for people to have a chance to vote for the Liberal Party.” The Observer made several phone calls but was not able to get hold of Conservative candidate Clay Harmon. His campaign office said Mr. Harmon may be visiting the islands around April 16-17. The Observer did talk to Christian Heritage Party candidate Rod Taylor and Green Party candidate Roger Benham. We’ll have more information about those candidates next week.

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