Nathan Cullen, the federal NDP house leader, has ruled out a run for the leadership of the B.C. New Democrats, ending weeks of consideration of a switch from federal to provincial politics.
The MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley said conversations with B.C. supporters convinced him he had a “very good shot” at winning the leadership of the provincial party, which is facing years of reconstruction after its unexpected defeat in the May provincial election.
Adrian Dix, who led the NDP in the election campaign, said in September he would step down once the party picks a successor - an announcement that kicked off manoeuvring by various possible successors, including Mr. Cullen.
However, he said in an interview on Friday that he concluded he should stay focused on Ottawa to complete the work launched by former leader Jack Layton and continued by Thomas Mulcair to elect Canada’s first federal NDP government.
“At the end, I couldn’t bring my heart to believe my work was done federally, that I had finished what I had started,” Mr. Cullen, who was first elected in 2004, said.
“The timing was certainly challenging because we’re facing a federal election in the next 18 months and I want to defeat this government and help form a new one.”
Mr. Cullen’s decision not to run may have some impact on the timing of the B.C. leadership race.
Mr. Cullen had been forcefully making the case for the provincial party to not rush into a leadership convention, arguing proposals for an early 2014 race would be too soon and deter either him or other promising candidates from running.
Now, his exit may ease pressure on the party, which is to decide on the issue next weekend at a provincial council meeting timed around a biennial policy convention.
Still, the 41-year-old Mr. Cullen, who raised his profile with a third-place ranking in the race for the leadership of the federal NDP that elected Mr. Mulcair, said the party would be wise to consider holding off on the leadership vote even though he won’t be in the race.
The delay, he said, may work for other candidates. “I really believe that argument was better for the party regardless of my entrance in the race, and I wouldn’t have argued it if it was only for my purposes,” he said.
Mr. Cullen said some New Democrats had offered to advocate for holding off on the date of the leadership convention to facilitate his entry into the race. “I’d say, `get a longer date if you think it’s right.’”
He said, going ahead, that he isn’t ready to endorse any possible successor for Mr. Dix, but he wouldn’t rule out encouraging prospective candidates to run.
Although several NDP MLAs have expressed an interest in the leadership, none have officially entered the race.