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Cullen considering top BC NDP job, but calls timing bad

Federal New Democratic Party Member of Parliament Nathan Cullen says despite pressure to join the race to lead the British Columbia NDP he's pretty sure he doesn't want the job.

“I have almost totally made up my mind,” the Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP said on the phone from Smithers. “The timing for me is not great.”

As Cullen spoke, he pushed his twin five-month old boys, Isaac and Elliot, in a stroller. “I think I understand well the commitment required,” he said, noting he'd just had two uninterrupted weeks with his family over the holidays. “You don't want any regrets in this life.”

So far MLAs Harry Lali and Nicholas Simons and cannabis activist Dana Larsen have said they'll run to replace Carole James as leader.

Acknowledging that politicians always say they're hearing from lots of people who want them to run, Cullen said he's been surprised at the calls from people with some influence who he respects. “I've been getting a lot of calls,” he said. “It's humbling.”

He declined to name names, but said he's spoken to former premiers about what its like to do the job and has heard from people involved in politics, as well as leaders in the First Nations and environmental communities.

“I'm talking to a lot of people right now,” he said. “I'm going to listen to everybody's arguments.”

Out of respect for them, he said, he would wait until the end of January to make a final decision, even though his heart tells him it's the wrong time.

Even if he doesn't run, he said, there are several issues he would like to see raised. At the top of the list is opposition to Enbridge's proposed pipeline across northern B.C. to Kitimat as well as addressing questions of First Nations' rights and title.

“Rural B.C. I think has been an after thought to the Campbell government,” he said. “You really can't get investment when there's so much uncertainty on the First Nations front.”

Cullen, 38 years old, has been the NDP's environment critic and the critic for natural resources and energy.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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