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Federal NDP leadership hopeful Cullen tours Greater Victoria

Nov 08 2011

Federal NDP leadership candidate Nathan Cullen toured Greater Victoria Monday, where environmental issues and co-operation with other parties featured prominently in meetings with community groups.

"Maybe it's because it's Victoria, but people are very interested in maintaining the environment as a central piece of what I'm talking about," said Cullen, the party's former environment critic.

Cullen, the MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley in northern B.C. is one of nine declared candidates vying to replace former NDP leader Jack Layton, who died in August.

He has made headlines for proposing the NDP hold joint nomination meetings with other parties to try and defeat Conservatives MPs in the next election. The suggestion, which would see the NDP co-operate with other parties like the Liberals to put forward one candidate against Conservative incumbents, has received a mixed reaction, said Cullen.

"It depends on the audience. For some of the more partisan New Democrats, they have some resistance," he said.

"They've fought a lot of running battles with Liberals ... and maybe co-operating with an opponent is difficult, but they are opponents and not enemies. For those that are more casual political people — they care about issues or social justice or housing or the environment — I haven't heard a negative thing yet."

B.C., a rich source of federal NDP memberships, is "absolutely critical" to a successful leadership campaign, said Cullen, who lives in Smithers.

Brian Topp, the former party president now also running for the leadership, visited the province last month and picked up the endorsement of several NDP MLAs, including former provincial leader Carole James.

Cullen said he has endorsements lined up as well, but it's only helpful if the person also does the groundwork in helping to line up votes. He said Topp is already facing criticism for being the "establishment candidate" and his early endorsements don't help that sentiment.

Cullen held meetings with environmental organizations in Victoria before heading to the University of Victoria to visit students and faculty, He closed the evening with an open house.

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