Fresh from his Hawaiian vacation, Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen is ready to tackle the challenging affairs of state from his position with the NDP caucus and armed with the feedback of residents of the sprawling riding he represents.
Cullen will be seeking commentary from local residents as he tours the riding in the next week, all part of his research into what we are hoping to see in Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's budget to be delivered at the end of January.
With the fate of the government set to hang in that budget, Cullen will be weighing the ideas he hears about across Northwest BC with what he hears when Flaherty speaks in the House of Commons on January 27th.
Mr. Cullen apparently is still hopeful of a coalition opportunity to form a government judging by his comments to the Daily News, a possibility that seems to be a little further down the track than it was prior to the sudden end of the current session of Parliament and the scattering of MP's to their home ridings and beyond.
Newly placed Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff while not discounting the coalition option, has provided the Harper government with an escape hatch from certain defeat, if it provides the right stimulus in the budget.
While those games will continue in Ottawa as the month moves forward, the budget preparations will also move into high gear and as the Daily News details in Thursday's edition, Rupert residents have their chance to contribute on Thursday January 15th at Northwest Community College.
Cullen is looking for value for money in budget
BY GEORGE T. BAKER
The Daily News
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Pages one and two
Expect a well-tanned Nathan Cullen when he brings a "Build your Budget" research tour to Prince Rupert a week from today.
The Skeena - Bulkley Valley MP spent his winter vacation in Hawaii and while he was getting a tan he spoke with the Daily News about what his tour will be about.
"The seven meetings across the riding are partly out of the excitement out of Ottawa before Christmas with just the meltdown in parliament, where it just stopped functioning," said Cullen.
Cullen will meet with locals at Northwest Community College at 7 p.m. to discuss "all ideas" about the Northwest's needs for the federal budget.
In a region with a heavy dependence on natural resource economy - an economy that is
hurting badly - the MP wants to hear what locals think are the best ways to help get local finances back in order.
He said the only thing left to decide is who will be actually enacting a federal budget.
"Whether it's a coalition government or a Conservative budget, there will be some form of a stimulus package made available and my greatest fear is that in times of near panic the money gets wasted."
"Ultimately, it's taxpayers money and it needs to be used in the most intelligent way," said Cullen.
Cullen also reacted to news that Western Forest Products would shut down its Haida Gwaii operations, cutting at least 200 jobs from the region. He said this is why a renegotiation over the North American Free Trade Agreement is needed, especially when it comes to softwood lumber sales.
"I think it has to be refocused," said Cullen.
"We'll find out what folks on the ground will say but support for smaller manufacturers of wood and small-to-mid sized companies operation need particular support in getting the products to market."
While the forestry industry is suffering, the fishing industry is in desperate shape as many have been hurt from inaccessible fish and employment insurance.
While reforms are needed for EI, said Cullen, the fishing industry needs a complete overhaul. That's why he thinks it is extremely important that Department of Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea pays a visit to Prince Rupert to hear from locals about ideas they have for getting the industry back on its feet.
"The ideas are on the table. It's about getting over the ideology in Ottawa that is the problem. (Minister Shea) will realize that there are innovative ideas out there and it sometimes the old guard thinking that is the big problem in Ottawa," said Cullen.