Thursday, September 11, 2008

Election rhetoric heats up in Skeena-Bulkley Valley

Does an MP have to be a member of the governing party to provide complete and effective representation?

That is apparently going to be the question for the early going of this campaign, as posed by Conservative candidate Sharon Smith. And if Mrs. Smith is to answer the question, it seems that her reply would be Yes!

Smith fired the first broadside of the campaign with her observations that current incumbent Nathan Cullen was unable to represent the riding effectively because his party, the NDP, was unlikely to be elected as the Government of the day on October 15th.

Needless to say it's a concept that Cullen disagrees with and one which he says many in the riding disagreed with when Smith first appeared on the local election scene as the "go to person" for Prince George MP Dick Harris.

That particular period of time in the riding caused quite the uproar and left Harris twisting by his own party for a time for his less than supportive thoughts to the will of the riding's electorate.

The opening issue of the campaign was featured in Wednesday's Daily News.

Would-be MPs spar over best way to represent
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Pages one and three

The NDP's Skeena-Bulkley Valley candidate, Nathan Cullen, responded to comments made by Conservative party candidate Sharon Smith about his ability to represent his riding under the NDP flag.

Smith said recently that Cullen was unable to fully represent his riding because his party was unlikely to be elected in to government.

Comments that caused Cullen to shoot back.

"It smacks of people trying to buy votes, and people in the Northwest are a little too proud to be at some sort of garage sale of politics," said Cullen.

Smith earlier said she would be able to do a better job than Cullen because she would have access to the government's ears if a Conservative government were elected.

"When you've got your MP in the parliament sitting as an opposition and as a fourth level of opposition, then it's difficult to see progress being made when (the local MP) is more for criticizing than being proactive," said Smith.

"We need to get that continuity with Ottawa."

Cullen disagreed with those comments.

"I don't know where Mrs. Smith has been the last four years but we've been able to attract more money and attention than has ever been given to this riding from both Liberal and Conservative governments," said Cullen.

"The way we do that is make ourselves relevant, keep Skeena relevant in the government and make sure (the government) knows how people feel in the Northwest. That's the reason things have been funded."

He claimed he has raised several million dollars for the riding.

Cullen went on to say that he has worked with all parties that have been elected to parliament and has even worked with Smith, who is currently the Mayor of Houston.

"I've always believed that a member of parliament has to represent all people in the constituency," said Cullen.

"So, when someone comes out and brings more crass politics in and some suggestion of insider influence ... Dick Harris and Smith tried that last summer and the reaction from people in the Northwest was incredible."

Cullen was referring to last year's "go-to person" fiasco after Harris, the Conservative Prince George MP, issued a press release in late August announcing the appointment of Smith as the person for Skeena-Bulkley Valley constituents looking for access to the federal government.

"I felt very supported by people in the region," Cullen added.

"They rejected it with a passion. While some people are not fully committed to the democratic process, people in the Northwest are."

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