Nathan Cullen answers your questions on his candidacy for NDP leader

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Yesterday,'s online discussion forum babble hosted Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP and NDP leadership candidate Nathan Cullen for an interactive interview, in which Nathan answered your questions on his bid for the keys to Stornoway. Here is an abridged and edited version of that interview. Read the complete interview on babble here and join the ongoing discussion.

Also, stay tuned as more NDP leadership candidates join us and respond to your queries. Next up is Brian Topp, who will be joining us next week on Wednesday, February 22 at 11:30 a.m. PST/2:30 p.m. EST.

All candidates have been invited to be part of a babble Q&A. Peggy Nash, Paul Dewar and Niki Ashton will also be dropping by soon, so be sure to check babble and regularly.

babblers: Regarding your much-discussed co-operation plan, why should the NDP be having this conversation when they achieved their greatest electoral victory and when other social democratic governments dominate the political stage in other countries without this plan? Are there any other parties in other jurisdictions that have used this plan and achieved a successful result?

Nathan Cullen: I believe the incredibly strong showing on May 2 allows us to lead a conversation that is most urgent right now. The Harper government is fundamentally altering our nation and our ability to have a voice in our country's future. The crisis of climate change, growing inequality and the dominance of oil industry interests demands that we rise to the crisis and be more generous in our politics. The progressive majority of Canadians deserve a progressive government and we will bring in voting reform once in government to ensure that this is the future.

b: Does your co-operation plan include the Bloc Québecios? Considering the vast support the NDP received in Quebec this past May, why not include progressives from the Bloc in your plan?

NC: While I acknowledge they have progressive policies, we are focused on Conservative seats and want to build on the progressive federalist vote from the last campaign. Talk of the Bloc brings us into another conversation that isn't helpful.

b: Currently, the NDP has been successful in winning and holding rural ridings like yours: northerly, wet, forested, based around mill towns and dependent on the forest and fishing sectors, but has not enjoyed the same kind of success in other rural ridings, particularly those based around farming, ranching and petroleum that are drier and located in the southern part of the country. As an MP who has worked on rural issues generally, how would you go about making the party more appealing in the rural areas where it currently lacks representation?

NC: This is a great question and fundamental both to the future success of New Democrats and Canadians more broadly. The heart of the answer lies in policies that drive the creation of a value-added economy. The rural community relies on this kind of economy to be healthy and strong. Respect for the differences that exist in rural Canada is what all of our policies (from First Nations rights and title to food security) is at the foundation of my work.

b: How do you propose to get southern rural Canadians, in places outside the West, to abandon the Conservatives (and non-voting) and begin to move towards electing New Democrats?

NC: I think we need both. Our gains in Western Canada in the last election were decidedly not strong. Mr. Harper now takes the West for granted and we have incredible opportunity for growth here. In southern rural communities the issues are much aligned to what's happening in all parts of rural Canada. With a strong value-added manufacturing strategy and revamped trade strategy we can speak to all Canadians about creating the kind of progressive economy that will pay for the services that we need.

b: Do you recognize Québec's right to secede from Canada based solely on a 50 per cent plus-one vote on a referendum question determined by the Assemblée Nationale? And do you support the application of Bill 101 to enterprises under federal jurisdiction in Québec?

NC: New Democrat policy, and one I support, is expressed in the Sherbrooke is that 50 per cent plus one is a majority and according to the Supreme Court that is a mandate to negotiate. We have moved several private members bills in parliament to enable Quebecers to receive services from businesses under federal jurisdiction in French. I support these efforts.

b: One of the slogans coming out of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement is "Separation of Corporation and State." First, do you "believe" in the "separation of corporation and sate," and if so, what would you see as the most important first legislative step to accomplish that end?

NC: Traditionally private industry has existed under the power of the state and that it was a privilege (not a right) to operate a business. Now it seems that the tail wags the dog and that Canada now has a lobbyist for the oil sector in the prime minister and his cabinet. I'm not aware of any legislative barriers that prevent our governments from re-establishing the role and responsibility of the state.

b: Do you still believe in light of the results, that your vote yes for the use of "R2P" NATO force in Libya was the right one? Are you aware that serious allegations of war crimes have been made?

NC: I still believe that I voted correctly given the information and the imminent threat from the Libyan regime. My only regret was that we didn't take more time in our deliberations prior to the vote being cast. In future we must seek greater and deeper counsel before we commit to armed engagements again.

b: In Vancouver, many 30-something professionals are leaving the city because they cannot hope to own a home and the latest survey of immigrants states that one third of them are paying more than 50 per cent of their income for housing. Of course, the homeless population is also mushrooming exponentially. What is your plan to overcome these generational trends?

NC: Certainly at the heart of our work must be to bring in the national affordable housing strategy that Olivia Chow, Libby Davies and others have worked so many years to build. The rampant speculation that has built up in many markets (and in particular Vancouver and Victoria) is a direct result of permissive and overly lenient financing partly enabled by a lack of regulation and governments wedded to bubble economics.

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