Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Draft Nathan Cullen?

After the Edmonton Convention and Tom Mulcair was pushed out by delegates the lethargic NDP leadership race got underway. A number of the prominent candidates from 2012 begged off competing. For many of them it made a lot of sense. Several of them had lost their seats in the Liberal victory in 2015, not to mention they are five years older now.

Several promising candidates said that they were not inclined to run. Brian Topp is working with Rachel Notley's NDP government, now the only NDP government left in the country. Megan Leslie, the young, popular former MP from Halifax, said that she was not ready to re-enter the political arena. Conversations with the media indicated that she was emotionally exhausted after the difficult campaign. She now works at WWF Canada.

One leadership candidate offered a more nuanced explanation for why he wasn't running for leader in 2017. Nathan Cullen finished third place with 24% of the vote in 2012. When asked if he would run again he cited three reasons why he doesn't wish to run. First, he didn't think it was best for his family. Leadership and Ottawa are distant from his wife and family. A valid consideration and one I do not begrudge the British Columbia MP. Second, his riding is Skeena-Bulkley Valley, one of the remotest ridings from the capital. He stated that for the sake of the constituents he served them better as MP. The third reason he cited is that he wanted to focus on the upcoming Special Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reform.

While I will not presume to speak for the personal considerations one of these factors has changed immensely. After Justin Trudeau broke his promise to implement electoral reform Nathan Cullen was furious. He has aggressively criticized the government and been effective both in committee, during Question Period, and in the media.

The NDP has faded into the background since the election, and especially since Tom Mulcair was given the boot. Nathan Cullen is one of the few members of the party who have kept the party at the centre. He managed to apply pressure smartly and use the media to force the government to not hold a Liberal majority on the Electoral Reform Committee, and formed a consensus with opposition members to produce a consensus report.

New Democrats, I believe, want a leader who is passionate and can take the fight to this government. They want a full-throated criticism of the Trudeau Liberals. All of these broken promises almost always go against the progressive promises Liberals made. A savvy NDP leader could take great advantage of these Liberal failures and begin making the case for why progressives should not and cannot trust Trudeau and his government.

I supported Nathan Cullen in 2012 and think he has something to offer. He could build a platform around being the true progressive voice in Canada and guaranteeing electoral reform. Cullen offers a charisma and humour that would be welcome at the head of the NDP.

While draft has an unwanted connotation of force. If Mr. Cullen and his family's consideration hasn't changed, then I accept that. However, as I look at the current and assumed line up of candidates I know I am still looking for something different. I hope Mr. Cullen changes his mind and reconsiders leadership of the New Democratic Party.

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