MP visits, talks to islanders

  • Jan. 14, 2005 3:00 p.m.

Skeena MP Nathan Cullen visited the islands last week, spending a day in Masset, another in the south end. He met with Masset council, Mayor Barry Pages and Old Massett Chief Councillor Wilson Brown, Port council, Guujaaw of the CHN, the management committee in Queen Charlotte and as well spent forty-five minutes with a grade 12 class at the Queen Charlotte high school. He also stopped by the Observer office, where he told us the following;

On oil and gas

The most recent was back in early December, we get briefings with the environment minister’s office, and we are talking to people in Natural Resources as well-Natural Resources is the primary pusher on this-we’re not getting any indications from cabinet that they are looking to touch this at all. They tell us that it is still a negative story.
But you never know. Cabinet makes strange decisions. I’m not interested in necessarily letting up on it, but they are telling me to relax about it. That’s about it.

On the northern tax allowance

They call the finance department the black box. No one gets to see in. I am going to be after the finance minister-I have to find a way to not embarrass them in changing-reversing-their decision. I have to find a way for them to slip it into a budget, to save face. Because they made the decision which was an incorrect one in terms of whether this place is isolated or not, by drawing strange arbitrary lines. What I’ll be asking them to do is have a couple of other factors-cost of living, transportation off, medical evacuation, that sort of thing. Do I feel confident about it? I haven’t made any promises to people because I know it has been a struggle for quite awhile. I am not interested in introducing private members legislation that will get defeated That’s a waste of my time. It’s wasting emotion, basically. I need to work the back room and make Finance feel that they can do this without setting a precedent that’s dangerous for the rest of the country.

On lowering the voting age to 16

When it initially came to be, I thought, ‘uh-I don’t know if this is one I want to spend a lot of time on, but the more I hear the arguments, and the more young people I talk to, that classroom we were in today, at first the young folks are ‘what does it matter’ and then you start to talk about some of the important issues that are facing them and would you care to have a voice, do you have the capacity, the answer still remains ‘yes’.
And so what we are doing, there are four MPs from all four parties on tour, going to spend two weeks going east and west across the country. If it doesn’t have that groundswell of support though, it’ll die. It’s a matter of people caring.
We find that when people vote once, they tend to continue voting for their lives, which means they then pay attention to politics, and issues of the day. The other aspect of it is, young people are voting less and less and so if you continue the trend you will have elections like in the US or worse, where we are deciding government based on 40-percent of the people. And that when we have young people still in the education system, we can encourage that culture of voting, and that’s what we are trying to do.

On being voted up-and-coming rookie MP

That’s’ fun. It’s voted on by MPs so that’s nice. I call it getting my feet in the house. You know, the first couple of weeks, it’s a pretty intimidating place, a lot of people watching, and you know, one slip of the tongue and the place attacks you. So you know that’s always there. But since then, I’m feeling real comfortable in committee. I have really good staff and when I show up in committee, I know what I am generally talking about, and can kind of call the BS when I hear it. It is a relatively aggressive place. If I think of this place, if I think of somewhere like the Charlottes, and the straight talk that I usually get when I’m here, if I bring that same tone to Ottawa, it turns heads a bit. People are surprised by it. Ottawa is a place with lots of circular talking. I bring a bit of the northern perspective and it sounds different. It feels good.

On this visit to the islands

DFO has got to be occupying at least 80-percent of the conversations. The herring, a whole bunch of different operations. How the lodges operate, whether they are leaving proper benefits behind on the islands. I am debating with my staff right now how big a fight to pick with the operators and some of the clients because when you start to run some of the client lists, I can look through cabinet and find a bunch of them coming here. And they are a fishery now. To my mind, and what I hear from DFO, they are not being monitored at all. And they are taking 100,000 pieces of fish and I am not sure that they are leaving money behind. They are not touching the ground here very much. Changing the relationship with the island and with those operators, DFO is the place to start. Embarrassing the government into it.
It is a huge resource, it is a world-class place to go, but I don’t think it is benefiting the islands nearly as much as it could. The 2-percent the regional district is trying to get out of them, that’s a minimum, that’s a starting point. This island has protected those places and kept those stocks alive for thousands of years, the benefit should be accrued.
We pushed for a judicial review in December of DFO, the government shot it down. It sure could have used it. They have got fundamental problems about how they make decisions and how they don’t include communities. I am trying to find pressure points to embarrass the organization into restructuring and reviewing itself in a serious way.
People (also) ask about the offshore oil and gas. But I feel the support (is) very strong for our position. In Prince Rupert, it’s pretty much the same. I had a meeting with council the other week and they didn’t even bring it up.

On being a Member of Parliament

I am loving the job. It is a lot of work, a lot of balls to keep in the air and try to keep very cautious about never promising what I cannot deliver. But the impact that we’ve had has been significant. We went up against the Prime Minister’s office a few months ago on something and won. That power shift, it suits me just fine.

On the minority government

The government will orchestrate its own demise. I give it ten months (from now). I don’t think they want to go (to the polls) in the spring. Canadians don’t want it, and the government doesn’t want to be blamed for it. So, it’s subtle stuff but I give it ten (months) to another year and a half at the outside.
The reality is that I am very sensitive about the time that I have. I don’t tend to take on long-term projects these days, I want an issue that I can ram through in the next months (not in years). Which I think is good.

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