Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Nathan Cullen anxious to educate the Finance Minister

With the fate of the Harper government hanging on a budget to be delivered at the end of January, the MP for Skeena- Bulkley Valley is hopeful that the Conservatives will be paying attention to the needs of the riding.

The NDP MP outlined his plans to hold economic forums in the Northwest in January as a way of learning the desires of the areas constituents, feedback that he will relay to the Finance Minister, as Jim Flaherty prepares for what will be his most important financial speech in his tenure in the office.

The Daily News provided some background on the forums and what they hope to achieve as the front page story in Monday’s paper.

Local MP says he will make sure the Finance Minister learns needs and wants of region BY GEORGE T. BAKER
The Daily News
Monday, December 29, 2008
Pages one and two

When Jim Flaherty unveils the federal budget on Jan. 27, Nathan Cullen is hoping there will be some provisos for the Pacific Northwest region and he hopes they will come out of discussions with his constituents.

Cullen announced that the Northwest would play host to at least four economic forums next month as he prepares information regarding economic interests in the Northwest for the federal budget that will be announced Jan. 27.

"We are going to be setting up four and probably quite a few more economic recovery forums across the Northwest. We are starting with the four communities of Prince Rupert, Terrace, Kitimat and Smithers," said Cullen.

He said the forums would be held to engage local residents in the main issues and choices the federal government will face in regards to taxes, spending for infrastructure and economic stimulus, and what to do about environmental issues.

"It would be essentially a report card for me to take to Ottawa on the Northwest by which to judge the budget and to engage people on how it is we as a region can use what the government is going to offer to our best advantage" said Cullen.

Cullen added that because the Northwest has been living through its own economic recession for many years, residents have been forced to come up with themselves on how to address a downturn in finances.

He said he has been traveling in recent weeks discussing with his constituents what needs to be done.

Perhaps, he suggests, there has been a positive spin on the economic wobbles, having helped spur locals in to greater democratic participation

"The engagement level - I have never seen it this high in my four years in office. Folks are very much engaged on both sides of the issue," said Cullen.

On the open forums flip-side, it looks like the open house forums scheduled for the Northwest with regards to Shell Canada’s plans in the Klappan are off the table for now.

A series of forums had been planned for next month by Shell but with the recent announcement that the company would not pursue further exploratory drilling in the "Sacred Headwaters" for the time being, the plans were shelved.

"In terms of the Northwest, I think we have made the case to the provincial government and I hope to the region at large that this is dangerous stuff.

"Playing Russian roulette with our rivers is going to going to take a whole lot of convincing for the people of the Northwest to give in to," said Cullen.

Cullen said the larger question now at play is how does the region create wealth and how does it create energy, which he believes are a crucial component to the whole coalbed methane dilemma.

The reason for the January open forum was the possibility of drilling in the spring season.

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