NDP leadership contender Nathan Cullen calls for united front against Conservatives

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      NDP leadership candidate Nathan Cullen says he wants his party to borrow a page from Vision Vancouver’s playbook and work more cooperatively with federal Liberals and Greens in the next election to defeat Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.

      In an interview with the Georgia Straight at an Oak Street coffee shop, Cullen declared that it’s essential for the NDP to lead this discussion because it’s the opposition party with the most seats in Parliament and because Harper presents a “clear and present danger to this country”.

      “To be honest, a lot of my model of cooperation is built around Vision’s success,” Cullen said. “If Greens all stay in their bunkers and New Democrat types stay in theirs and Liberals stay in theirs, then the Conservative candidate tends to do really well and win.”

      Unlike other federal NDP leadership candidates, Cullen has proposed a way for his party to work with the Greens and Liberals. If he becomes leader on March 24 at the NDP convention in Toronto, Cullen said, he will call upon the party to allow riding associations to hold joint nominating meetings with the Greens and Liberals in areas represented by a Conservative MP.

      “But it would have to be driven by the grassroots,” he emphasized. “If they’re into it, then I’m into it. If they’re not, then we’ll do it the old traditional way.”

      The leader of the Green Party of Canada, Elizabeth May, told the Straight that she's delighted by Cullen's willingness to work with other parties to stop the Conservatives.

      "I don't know if he has the exact right proposal, but I think it's critical whoever is the next leader of the NDP be prepared to discuss methods of working together with the other parties in some form of cooperation," May said. "It could take many different forms."

      Earlier this year, Liberal Leader Bob Rae told the Straight in an interview that he expected that both the NDP and the upcoming Liberal leadership races would bring forward ideas for mutual cooperation. He was unavailable for comment on Cullen's more recent remarks.

      Nathan Cullen discusses how the NDP could work with the Greens and Liberals to defeat Conservative candidates.

      Cullen, the MP for Skeena–Bulkley Valley, added that he would not countenance the party having this type of electoral arrangement with the Bloc Québécois because its “fundamental purpose is to destroy the country”, even though he acknowledged that many Bloc MPs and their supporters are progressive.

      Vision Vancouver under Mayor Gregor Robertson has won two consecutive landslides in municipal elections by bringing together some Greens, federal Liberals, and New Democrats into a single party. Cullen, 39, said that he has been impressed by how Vision politicians have tackled homelessness and helped the city meet the Kyoto Protocol’s targets for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

      “They’re doing things and showing it can work,” the MP stated. “For me, it’s very pragmatic as opposed to dogmatic politics.”

      Prior to becoming an MP, Cullen was an environmental consultant and got to know Andrea Reimer, now a Vision councillor. Cullen said he was impressed when she told him that the environmental movement didn’t spend enough time talking to poor people. He later developed a friendship with Robertson, when the mayor was a member of the provincial NDP caucus. “I’m a huge fan,” Cullen admitted.

      However, the NDP MP is no fan of the prime minister, claiming that Harper has a “fundamental disdain for Parliament”. Cullen also criticized the Conservative government for ignoring Supreme Court of Canada rulings on several issues—including aboriginal rights and title, and the dissolution of the Canadian Wheat Board—and refusing to address climate change.

      Moreover, Cullen claimed that Harper is also a “very bad economist”, missing the last recession and only taking action after being forced to by the other parties in Parliament. “He was so stuck with his ideological blinkers that he couldn’t read the numbers,” Cullen charged. “One plus one was making four for him—and he was wrong. And only because he was threatened with the loss of power did he change course.”

      He said that in his northwestern B.C. riding, he can see the impact of bad government. At the provincial level, it has resulted in the closure of mills because of a lack of restrictions on the export of raw logs. At the federal level, he claimed that the government refuses to deal fairly with First Nations.

      "There are no people in the world that can survive without the means for their own production—the ability to generate their own income and wealth," Cullen said. "And the First Nations in our world live under a blatantly racist and oppressive act called the Indian Act. Why are we talking about changing or bringing in a couple of housing units if, at its core, this government has a racist orientation toward First Nations?"

      One of Cullen's greatest passions is the environment. And he sees energy as a critical consideration. He has called for an "energy-security strategy" for Canada to focus far more attention on producing it sustainably, affordably, and reliably.

      "My first priority would be to put a price on carbon," he commented.

      Nathan Cullen discusses energy issues.

      Now that the Conservatives have a majority, Cullen believes they will bring about their own political demise because they’re going to show their true stripes to Canadians.

      He also claimed that Harper practises “whistle-dog politics”, with every signal sent out at a pitch intended for certain groups of Canadians to hear. Cullen argued that eventually, the public will see through this—and if the other parties cooperate on some level in time for the next election, Harper can be defeated.

      “I think he has a disdain for people’s intelligence,” Cullen claimed. “It’s dangerous when you think you’re the smartest guy in the room, in every room. That’s the impression he leaves with most people.”

      Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.



      Katie lau

      Dec 29, 2011 at 5:34am

      If Canadians care about the great county they grew up in then defeating Harper is a must. He's paying for a propaganda machine to keep his Pavlovian followers throwing money at all their pet peeves while he tears apart the country that has given them lives they couldn't have had in many other countries.

      Anne Streeter

      Dec 29, 2011 at 5:44am

      Cullen's comments make great sense!


      Dec 29, 2011 at 6:43am

      Not sure why it`s dangerous to think your the smartest man in the room, when 99 times out of 100, Harper most likely is.


      Dec 29, 2011 at 7:37am

      The Libs will never merge with the NDP, it would be suicide for a party already on the ropes because they behaved like NDPers.
      The NDP still apparently think the orange wave was real support LOL, it was a protest vote gone horribly wrong and Quebec is already done with the NDP(even the hard core Quebec socialists don't want your commie crap)
      PS how many businesses in the bulkley valley are still boarded up Nathan? How many saw mills working part time?
      How many logging trucks running on the road?
      Better question is how many have lost their homes in your riding Nathan?, how many industries shut their doors?


      Dec 29, 2011 at 8:28am

      NDP-Liberal "cooperation" will polarize both parties, particularly the Liberal supporters. Red Grits will welcome the union, but Blue Grits will reject it because they want nothing to do with the NDP. Hardcore socialists within the NDP will also resist yielding to the Liberals who they say campaign on the left but govern on the right.

      Cullen's "cooperation" will only confuse Canadians come election time because it only represents a hatred of Conservatives and a piling on that can only result in some kind of """scary""" Lib-Dip merger.

      Cooperation, or whatever you may call it only depends on hatred, and that can be used by Conservatives to defeat any Lib-Dip candidate.

      devils advocate

      Dec 29, 2011 at 9:19am

      wow, what a loser...who has done absolutely nothing for his own riding constituents and now wants to do even less by becoming party leader

      maybe Nathan really only wants to emulate Vision by tapping into the US based financial backing Gregor got??

      Moebius Stripper

      Dec 29, 2011 at 9:51am

      Oh FFS. Has we learned nothing from the failed Vote For Environment/Project Democracy model, in which the goal of "defeat Harper" resulted in ever-larger Conservative governments? Funny that: when one party lays out a set of goals, and its opponents can't do any better than "we're not them", folks are inclined to find the latter a bit lacking. Cullen would be wise to note that Jack Layton built a successful career on positive campaigning.

      Cullen lays out some of his views in this interview - carbon pricing, First Nations issues, and an energy-security strategy. I hope he runs with those, rather than establishing "we're against whatever the Conservatives are for" alliance that puts partisanship over policy - and that's been proven to fail.


      Dec 29, 2011 at 9:58am

      The Green Party ran their own candidates in the Vancouver municipal elections in 2011. Let's not revise history. Vision Vancouver only 'collaborated' with COPE, and COPE was virtually wiped out as a result.

      Arthur Vandelay

      Dec 29, 2011 at 10:15am

      In case you haven't noticed Nathan, your real fight is in Quebec, not Ottawa and your oppnent's name is Daniel Paillé, not Stephen Harper. Good luck with all that and your party's short trip back to the margins.

      Heather Tuite

      Dec 29, 2011 at 11:37am

      Nathan has done and excellent job for his riding. He is extremely well liked, and receives over 50% of the vote during elections. He works very hard to represent his constituents and he will make a great face for the NDP in 2012.