Another NDP leadership hopeful stopped by Nelson Monday as he campaigns across Canada leading up to the party convention in March 2012.
Nathan Cullen, who is the MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley, spent two hours at the Nelson Trading Company for a brown bag lunch where he sat down to talk to residents of Nelson.
“I got involved in politics a bit in a different direction, I wasn’t born into it,” he said. “My family wasn’t political, but I got involved through working internationally and seeing the power of what an elected official could do if they were lined up with people.”
Cullen ran for office in 2004 where he beat Conservative MP Andy Burton.
“We’ve had a lot of elections at the federal level in the last number of years, so we’ve been in pretty much constant campaign mode since then,” he said. “It’s made our politics very vigorous, so not with the majority government it’s gotten much more out of the public’s attention and that’s deeply worrisome for me.”
Many of the candidates running in the leadership race are from major urban areas like Toronto and Ottawa, but as an MP from Northwest BC, Cullen represents the voice of rural and particularly on Canada’s West Coast.
“I was born in Toronto and grew up there, so I get the urban mentality,” he said. “It’s not foreign to me. I think we can find those common points. We care about a lot of the same things.”
Cullen has been involved in many mining projects in his constituency and thinks that the way urban Canadians view resources needs to change.
“We need to start talking about our resources in a more intelligent way,” he said.
“One of the primary drivers in our economy is our natural resources and we don’t treat it very well right now. We’re getting worse at it, not better. Folks in the city need to appreciate that.”
If chosen the new NDP leader, Cullen said he’s focused on changing the tone of Canadian politics.
“It seems very, very destructive right now, very personal and vindictive. And because it’s destructive it’s turning people off, particularly young folks. So one of the proposals that I made is around having the federalist more progressive parties co-operate going into the next election, where we’ll hold joint nomination meetings,” he said.
Cullen said that the tone of Canadian politics is also excluding people from the political process and conversation.
“I’m not wedded to old ideologies. I don’t think that New Democrats have everything perfectly right and I don’t think the other side has everything perfectly wrong,” he said.
“I think that there’s got to be that sacred common space, that ground in between the different views of the world that we can respect and be thoughtful in our politics and not go to the lowest common denominator.”
Cullen is using the slogan “New Generation. New Change,” and said he is campaigning on a mandate of change.
“I’m not looking for status quo. The status quo is killing a lot of people and we can seek change intelligently and thoughtfully that brings more people into the conversation because too many are being shut out, especially when you drop below say age 30,” he said.