Veteran NDP MP Nathan Cullen will not run again in the next federal election.
Cullen, who has represented the B.C. riding of Skeena-Bulkley Valley since 2004, made his intentions known at a press conference in Smithers, B.C. Friday. The move comes mere days after his party's leader Jagmeet Singh won a crucial byelection in Burnaby South.
Cullen mused for weeks that he might not run again this fall, but said he would wait until after Singh's byelection campaign was over before making any decision. He is currently his party's critic for democratic reform.
'I have experienced this work as a powerful vocation and calling'
In a lengthy release to media Friday, Cullen called his time in Ottawa a "great adventure" and challenge.
"I have experienced this work as a powerful vocation and calling, and I have given it my full heart and mind," he said. "And now I believe it is time for someone else to have the honour and responsibility of representing our great region and its people on the national stage."
Cullen said that he made a simple promise to himself before being elected: "that on the day I left politics, I would leave with my family, my health, and my integrity intact."
Cullen also wished Singh the best in the upcoming election and expressed hope that a "strong, progressive representative" would take his place in Parliament.
He told HuffPost Canada Thursday that 15 years as an MP is a long time.
"I never thought of this thing as what people would think as a job," he said.
Cullen also explained he wasn't concerned about helping to fuel a narrative that the NDP is in trouble.
"It really looks like the Liberals are in trouble right now," Cullen said, in reference to the SNC-Lavalin controversy enveloping the government.
"And I don't know if the Conservatives have found their offer yet, either."
Cullen is just the latest longtime NDP MP who won't re-offer this fall as the party struggles in public opinion polls and lags well behind Tories and Liberals in fundraising. On Thursday, fellow B.C. MP Murray Rankin announced he won't seek re-election.
The list of NDP MPs not running again includes:
- Alberta MP Linda Duncan
- Ontario MPs David Christopherson and Irene Mathyssen
- Quebec's Helene Laverdière, Romeo Saganash, Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet and Anne Minh-Thu Quach
- B.C.'s Fin Donnelly.
Former MPs Kennedy Stewart and Sheila Malcolmson also left their jobs. Stewart is now Vancouver's mayor and Malcolmson is a provincial politician in B.C.
Mulcair also left politics to work as a professor at Universite de Montreal.
Cullen told HuffPost that it's unfair to assume that there are problems within the party when a cohort of incumbent MPs announce they're not re-offering.
Those who've decided to not run again, such as Laverdière, Mathyssen, and Christopherson, are bowing out because they're ready for retirement, he said.
"It's not because of Jagmeet, it's not because of where the party is. It's just straight circumstance."
Listen to Nathan Cullen explain why his exit doesn't feed a narrative that the NDP is in trouble:
Cullen was chosen by his peers as Maclean's magazine's "Parliamentarian of the year" in 2018.
He said he is optimistic the party will expand its reach under Singh's leadership.
"His potential to grow is significant — and people he can talk to in a different way is significant," he said. "It's nothing but opportunity right now."
Cullen finished third in the 2012 NDP leadership race and served in senior roles, including NDP House leader and finance critic, when his party was the Official Opposition under Thomas Mulcair.
He surprised many observers by opting not to run for the NDP leadership in 2017. He endorsed Singh's winning bid over those of fellow MPs Charlie Angus, Niki Ashton, and Guy Caron.
With files from The Canadian Press
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