Before Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen will return to work on Dec. 3 when Parliament resumes, he’ll have the chance to reflect on his own campaign and his NDP’s free-fall from leading the federal election race early on, to a third-place finish and losing dozens of seats across the country when all the ballots were counted.
In an interview with CBC’s Rosemary Barton on Power and Politics in late October, Cullen was candid about his future with the party and where the leadership baton lies in the NDP – squarely with current leader, Tom Mulcair.
“Yes, [Tom will remain leader going into the next election]. I mean, I go back to how Tom did during this campaign, and I was more focused on B.C. but from reports from the rest of the country, our rallies … just had these really huge turnouts and really strong, positive feelings. And four weeks before the campaign was over, we were feeling as good as we ever have and it’s a new reality for the NDP because we come in having had a tough loss with 44 seats,” Cullen said.
Calls for Cullen to at least enter the fray once again to lead the party have become more pronounced since the results of the election were tallied. Winning more than 50 per cent of the vote in the riding and handily defeating second-placed Conservative candidate, Tyler Nesbitt, by nearly 12,000 votes, Cullen’s seat seems secure for the foreseeable future. Even winning the approval of Skeena-Bulkley Valley Green candidate, Jeannie Parnell during the 2015 election and having won five election races since 2004, Cullen is more than just in the conversation as the next leader of the NDP. He’s previously placed third in an NDP leadership nomination in 2012 and was voted the 2014 Most Knowledgeable Parliamentarian at the Maclean’s Magazine Parliamentarian of the Year Awards. But if there are cracks in Mulcair’s leadership position, the party isn’t letting them show.
As for a new leadership nomination, Cullen is solely focused on getting back to work and making sure the Liberal Government holds true to their promises.
“In terms of leadership, there’s so much dust to settle … This was a long, long campaign and I’m just focused on calling my colleagues, both former and new ones and seeing how everybody’s doing,” Cullen told Black Press.
“Learning how to campaign as the frontrunner is also something new to us … How to run with the lead is not something we had known how to do through many decades of time that the NDP has existed or has had a lot of practice at … 44 MPs is a good start for rebuilding. We have some incredible people returning, we have some incredible new people coming – that’s good for us. So as devastating as this is … I also know that my duty as a Member of Parliament and to my riding is to represent the northwest of British Columbia and to my party as we bring these new folks in to begin the rebuilding process,” Cullen told Barton.
– With files from Chris Gareau