The federal NDP announced their new shadow cabinet positions this morning, and while most of the party’s veteran MPs received positions as ministry critics, one MP was curiously missing from the list of appointments: the MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley, Nathan Cullen.
Instead, Cullen has been appointed as the chair of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics; more commonly known as the “Ethics Committee.” Cullen says he’s very pleased with the appointment, and suggested that he chose to accept the position even though he could have gotten a one as a critic if he had sought it.
“I’m thrilled with the role, I think it suits me well. It’s a combination of diplomacy, the need to keep government to account and setting a clear agenda so that Canadians can know that their government isn’t straying too far from the ethical path, which is something this government got a little too used to in the last parliament,” says Cullen.
During the last Parliament, the Conservatives attracted accusations of unethical conduct and a lack of transparency from the Opposition and other sources over a variety issues such as the Bev Oda “not” affair, Rahim Jaffer’s alleged illegal lobbying, ministerial aids blocking information requests, and the refusal to release the Afghan Detainees Documents.
Because of this and the new Conservative majority, Cullen says that the work of the Ethic’s Committee will be very important in the new Parliament. Cullen believes that his new position will give him a lot of influence in Ottawa even if he isn’t in the shadow cabinet.
“While [my position] doesn’t directly impact mining decisions, it certainly puts me in the conversation and puts me on the level of many cabinet ministers and allows me to talk to them as equals ..This role can be translated into a place of influence,” says Cullen.
Even though Cullen may be the chair of the committee, that doesn’t mean he will be able to get it to decide his way. Since the Conservatives have a majority in the House of Commons, over half the members of the committee will be Tories as well. Cullen warns that if the Conservatives try to use their majority position to make uncomfortable allegations go away, they do so at their own peril.
“A government that wields their power too blatantly and too arrogantly is a government that lasts exactly one term. That’s not just me saying that, that’s history,” says Cullen.
While he may not be the natural resources like some political commentators expected he would be, Cullen says he will continue to be active in issues like halibut reallocation and the Enbridge pipeline issues, promising to bring the new Natural Resources critic, Romeo Saganash, up to speed on the Enbridge issue. Saganash is one of the newly elected MPs from Quebec.