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REPORTING · 14th November 2011
Merv Ritchie
Video linked and attached below
On Friday afternoon, November 11, Skeena Bulkley Valley MP, Nathan Cullen, held a fund raiser and coffee klatch meeting in the Kiva Cafť at the Northwest Community College Campus, billed as Cafť Cullen, Latte`s for Leadership.

Approximately 50 residents showed up and participated in a silent auction and donated funds to help Cullen travel across Canada to meet other Canadians in an attempt to garner support for his leadership of the NDP Party, the current Official Opposition of Canada. Winning this contest would allow the Cullen family to move into Stornoway, the majestic home in Ottawa for the Leader of the opposition.

After an hour and better of mingling and talking with those gathered, BC MLA for the Skeena Constituency, Robin Austin moved to the microphone and explained why he wanted to publically support Cullen. Austin told the gathered supporters it wasnít simply a partisan political thing to do it was due to his very real belief that Cullen wasnít just the best person for the NDP but was the best person to lead Canada.

"I believe [...] Nathan has a very special talent," explained Austin, "the ability to not just speak and to communicate complex ideas, it's the ability to connect with people. Think about how challenging it is in this world when everybodyís lives are very busy and theyíre not paying much attention to politics, and you have 30 seconds on the news or two minutes on a radio station and you have to try to connect with people right across this vast country. In order to do that you have to have a gift. And I think Nathan has that gift."

Nathan started by telling a humorous story of how he opened a similar gathering for Jack Layton, where he had to prolong his opening remarks as one of Laytonís handlers was making hand gestures indicating Layton wasnít ready. As it turned out, Cullen explained, the handler was just seeing how long he could keep Cullen at the microphone; Layton was ready from the beginning.

He then spoke about the seriousness of this role, the leadership of the NDP Party, stating they are currently sitting as the Government in waiting, potentially he is running to be the Prime Minister of Canada.

Cullen spoke about how much money it takes to enter this leadership bid and compared his fund raising efforts to the USA. A political friend of his in Ohio compared Nathans estimated $80,000 total budget for an regular Federal election campaign to what he needed to raise every week over a two year period leading up to his election bid. This was a shocking example of the differences between the Canadian system and the USA system of politics. George Bush raised funds, Cullen used as another example, by allowing you to pay $100,000 to play golf with him. But this golf game? One single hole with four other people and each paid the same amount. He explained how in their system these people are buying favours, claiming these are not stupid people they are not simply benevolent.

In Canada Cullen explained an individual is not allowed to donate more than $1,200. "Thatís it, that`s all you can do, which, where I grew up, thatís a ton of money." he explained how he liked this system because, as he put it, Ő donít want to be beholden to anybody. I want to be beholden to everybody."

Cullen had called everybody down to the lower floor of the cafť to be close and comfortable and was able to make eye contact with everyone as he spoke. His talk lasted close to 40 minutes but it was an entertaining affair. He spoke at length about his intimate relationship with Layton and how over the course of seven years when ever they met Layton would ask how he was doing and Cullen would reply, "Not getting ready for Leader Jack" and Jack would reply "Well you should." But what Cullen said in regards to himself running in this contest, as potentially the Prime Minister, it's "an audacious idea."

He told humorous stories about his children, life in our region and politics in general but on serious issues he was very specific.

Taxes and the reasons for collecting taxes was a high point. He demonstrated the ridiculousness of governments saying there isnít money for health care and education by using the BC government as an example. they were able to spend half a billion dollars funding the new roof on BC Place Stadium but cannot find the money invest more in these other services for the citizens health and education.

Cullenís most controversial statement was regarding his proposal to effect real representation for Canadians in Politics. His proposal to meet with the Liberals and the Green Party to strategize on which Candidates to run and where. He stated this already goes on in the back rooms, that we shouldnít be fooled; he is just bringing out into the public what everyone behind the scenes knows already. He calls it cooperation.

Cullen kept the discussion on this lively and relevant. He stated the idea was likely to be rejected by the Liberals and maybe even by his own party but, as he explained, they have to get past the Parties interests. There are only 85,000 NDP members but four and a half million Canadians voted for them. As he put it, Canadians interests are not being represented. He used John Duncan as an example. He is currently the aboriginal affairs Minister and only received 38.9 percent of the vote.

And Cullen also ridiculed Harper for bragging about our banking system when Harper argued only a few years ago that we should change our banking system to be more like the USA. In fact Harper used City Bank as an example.

This was as informative and enlightening as it was entertaining. The things Cullen shared about the political world rarely see the light of the public mediums.

This open and informative style of communication is likely what has led Cullen to a victory in every election he has entered in the Skeena Bulkley Valley. It may be what leads him to a victory next year in the contest to be the leader of the NDP party.

Watch the full presentation attached below.

Or click here to see it online on Vimeo.