Nathan Cullen says appointment as House Leader will bring more influence for Northwest BC

MP Nathan Cullen was appointed as the NDP's House Leader this week, an office that he says will raise the profile of Northwest BC issues.

House Leader of the Official Opposition

House Leader of the Official Opposition

Skeena – Bulkley Valley got a big promotion this week when the NDP’s new leader Thomas Mulcair appointed him as the Opposition House Leader. Until now, Cullen’s only other role other than being a Member of Parliament was to chair of the Parliamentary Ethics Committee. Now he has considerably more on his plate.

Being the Official Opposition’s House Leader means that Cullen will be a front-bench MP now; in charge of guiding his party through the veritable sea of bills, behind-the-scenes negotiations, debates and procedures that are a fact of life on Parliament Hill.

“The House Leader’s job is many things, but two primary things: one is to stop the worst things rom happening like bad legislation coming through. The second thing is trying to find ways to work with government to get good things through. It’s challenging in a majority context, but I’m up for the challenge,” says Cullen.

Cullen will have fingers in many different pies as he’ll be required to keep tabs on the portfolios of all the NDP critics as well as all the upcoming house business being put forward by the Conservatives. He says he hopes to parlay his new office into greater influence for Northwest BC and it’s concerns.

“It’s one of the more powerful positions in Parliament. So my ability to speak more directly to Governmet and other MPs has increased. . . My mandate has always been to increase the visibility and profile of the Northwest in Canada’s conversation, and I think this is very helpful,” says Cullen.

This is the second shadow cabinet shuffle in a row where Cullen has not received a appointment to a critic position. During the last one, Cullen was replaced by rookie Quebec MP, Romeo Sanganash as Natural Resources critic and Cullen was made the chair of the Ethic’s Committee.

But that was before Nathan Cullen came in third in the NDP’s leadership race. When Mulcair cinched the party leadership, a big question mark for many political commentators was what he was going to do with Cullen whose surprise leadership race success had made him impossible to relegated into the backbenchers.

Although Cullen’s new office focuses more on procedural matters rather than arguing policy issues, he says that he has not been simply given more responsibility but less power. He argues that as House Leader his relationship with his party leader and with the Government will be dramatically different than most MPs on the Hill. For instance, while most MP’s get to participate in question period, Cullen says he’ll part of planning his party’s strategy for it.

“I would argue that around parliament the House Leader has loads of influence because you’re handling so many of the different files, not just on one criticship. You’re sitting in the executive, meeting with the leader every day, dealing with the government in a totally different way. I think it’s only increased my ability to deal with government and influence the Official Opposition,” says Cullen.

Cullen says he also wants to bring some changes to the way the Opposition House Leader operates, even hinting at at some form of increased public engagement. But he declined to elaborate saying that he wanted to meet with his caucus first.