Skeena Bulkley Valley federal MP Nathan Cullen has been making headlines recently with his musings on the possibility that he would move from federal to provincial politics and take the helm of the B.C. NDP party.
Current NDP leader Adrian Dix announced that he would be stepping down as leader within the year.
Cullen, official house leader of the opposition, has been unabashed in his criticism of the federal government’s handling of Enbridge Northern Gateway, environmental protection, and the federal government’s lack of forthrightness in dealing with First Nations constitutionally guaranteed rights with regard to natural resource projects.
In a regular monthly conversation with Northwest media outlets, Cullen talked about federal policies as they relate to the Northwest and gave some insight into his future plans.
Regarding the recent federal initiative to visit Northwest B.C. in a thinly veiled attempt to sell Enbridge Northern Gateway to a population divided on the pipeline proposal, Cullen sees little hope of a turnaround of public opinion.
“Harper and his cabinet were out in B.C. on a ‘charm offensive’, particularly focused at First Nations,” Cullen said. “I doubt it will be successful… there’s little hope for Mr. Harper’s plan to ram this thing through.”
Cullen sees the clamour surrounding Enbridge Northern Gateway ending up in the courts for a decision.
“First Nations have a constitutional right to be consulted and accommodated,” Cullen said. “There is no real bulldozer that you can take to the supreme court justices. They’re going to defend the constitution.”
“The constitutional lawyers I’ve talked to about this – which have just been a few because it’s still a ways off – have said that this is a slam dunk… pre-informed consent has not been met and [there’s] little likelihood that it would be.”
Cullen also ramped-up his direct criticism of the provincial liberals and their handling of Fortune Minerals current attempt to develop a coal mine in the Mount Klappan area, approximately 320 kms north of Terrace.
“My hope for the area is that it becomes a traditional use area and that it becomes protected,” Cullen said.
The provincial Liberals, Cullen said, had promised as much to the Tahltan First Nation, which explains the entrenched response protesters have made to preliminary field work in the area.
“To envision that a protected area could also include an open-pit coal mine is a pretty impoverished view of what protection looks like,” Cullen said. “For the premier to think she can just wink and nod to industry while making promises to First Nations doesn’t bode well for [other] relationships across the province.”
Cullen announced that he would be undertaking an LNG tour throughout the Northwest, without mentioning specifics.
“We’re looking to bring industry, environmental groups, and First Nations onto the same stage so that people can have a sense of what projects are being proposed and also have a more full view of the pros and cons of pipelines and specific projects,” he said.
As for the chances that Cullen will exit the federal arena and turn to provincial politics, only time will tell.
“I’m still somewhat cool to the idea, although it has been warming up to me based on the kinds and number of calls and interactions I’ve had from people,” he said.
“I don’t have a timeline set for myself in terms of making a decision.”