Nathan Cullen campaign gathering momentum

  • Feb. 8, 2012 2:00 p.m.

By Alex Rinfret–Nathan Cullen, the Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP running for the leadership of the NDP, took a brief break from his hectic schedule to talk to the Observer earlier this week. Mr. Cullen has been all over Canada, including stops in the Northwest Territories, Prince Edward Island, Halifax and Toronto – and that’s just in the past week. On Tuesday morning, he was in Saskatoon, getting ready for a meet and greet and a leadership forum. “We’re moving, man,” he said. “I rarely put my head down in the same province two nights in a row.” Mr. Cullen said the campaign is going well and gets more exciting and intense every day. “There seems to be an alignment in the stars that wasn’t obvious at the beginning of this,” he said. “We’re still in the race… It’s feeling good, it’s feeling right.” Mr. Cullen will be back in the riding on Feb. 17, when he appears before the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline joint review panel in Prince Rupert. The pipeline is big news all over Canada, he said. “It is constantly the number one or number two issue people are raising,” he said. “I’m talking about Skeena and the northwest non-stop.” By the time he gets to Rupert, Mr. Cullen will have spent time in Alberta and in the tar sands area, speaking to local First Nations, mayors and communities. He’s never visited the tar sands before, and said he’s pretty sure he will be the only candidate making a stop there. Meanwhile, Mr. Cullen said Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s choice to speak out in favour of Enbridge and pipelines, and against the concerned citizens who have signed up in thousands to speak to the joint review panel, holding up the approval process, is strange. “The Prime Minister is a bully,” he said. “It’s become a symbol of all that’s wrong… It was not very smart and it’s highly offensive. I’m very surprised.” Mr. Cullen has been getting positive press from all parts of Canada in recent weeks. The Globe and Mail newspaper reported that he upstaged the seven other candidates during the Halifax debate, calling him “a skilled communicator, crisp and witty with an intensity of commitment.” The story went on to suggest that while Mr. Cullen isn’t likely to win the leadership, he could very well end up deputy leader. But Mr. Cullen said he is in the race to win, and nothing else. There’s no way he would undertake the grueling campaign schedule, away from his young twin sons, he said, unless it was for the most important of reasons. “I am not entering myself in the campaign to move up the ladder,” he said. “I don’t take this kind of sacrifice to move up a little… It’s about the kind of country we want to have, the kind of politics Canadians want to have.” If you are interested in voting for the next leader of the NDP, you have until Feb. 18 to join the party. You can sign up over the internet by visiting Mr. Cullen’s site (nathancullen.ca) or the general NDP site. The leadership vote will be held March 24 in Toronto, but party members will be able to cast votes online. See the website for details.

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