MP Nathan Cullen endorses Singh in NDP bid

Nathen Cullen not worried about Jagmeet Singh’s lack of seat in the House of Commons.

Veteran New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen is shrugging off the fact Jagmeet Singh is in no hurry to sit in the House of Commons, choosing to endorse the member of the Ontario legislature in his bid to lead the federal NDP.

Cullen, who himself ran against eventual winner Tom Mulcair in 2012, said Wednesday he is confident the NDP’s current team of MPs — 44 all told, including three running against Singh — can hold the Liberal government to account until 2019, if necessary.

While Singh has said he’d be inclined to wait until then to run in the federal election, he has left the door open to running earlier in a byelection, adding that he’s open to ideas on “where it makes sense to run.”

Even though the NDP was cheered for its work in the Commons prior to the election, Justin Trudeau triumphed nonetheless, despite having spent little time on the floor of the House, Cullen said.

“Voters, in the end, determined they had a relationship and understood his policies better than they did ours, so he’s prime minister,” he said.

“I have no concerns at all today as I stand with Jagmeet about the concept of us going through to the next election with the incredible team that we have talked about.”

Jack Layton did not have a seat when he became leader, Cullen added.

Earlier this week, Mulcair said it would be a “heck of a lot better” if his successor had immediate access to the Commons in order to face off with Trudeau.

“I think it’s important to have a seat in the House of Commons if we’re leading a political party,” Mulcair said. “I think that ideally, you know, you should be there.”

Mulcair also said questions about his lack of a federal seat came up quickly when he became Layton’s Quebec lieutenant, prompting him to run in a federal byelection in 2007.

Charlie Angus, an Ontario MP who is also running against Singh, has also said he thinks the leader needs to be in the Commons.

“I was surprised that Jagmeet said he didn’t think he needed to be in Parliament until 2019,” Angus said Monday in an interview. “That’s his choice … my focus is Parliament, what we are going to do there and the building on the ground from that.”

The other candidates are Manitoba MP Niki Ashton and Quebec MP Guy Caron.

Singh has been able to garner the most support from the current federal caucus — a total of 11 MPs, including Cullen, who said he was swayed in part by Singh’s commitment to issues like electoral reform and climate change.

Some observers have suggested that Singh — a practising Sikh with a penchant for brightly coloured turbans — could be in for a rough ride in Quebec, where overt displays of religious faith can be a political liability.

“It is not the turban itself — it is what it means,” Bloc Quebecois Leader Martine Ouellet said earlier this week. “In Quebec, what we decided in the 60s … we decided to separate religion and the state. That’s really important for us.”

Quebec NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice, who is not publicly backing any particular candidate in the leadership race, acknowledged that the separation of church and state has been a long-standing issue in Quebec.

Personally, he said, he respects those who want to show their faith.

“I think it’s their freedom,” Boulerice said. “I don’t have any problem with that. I don’t want political decisions being driven by only religious point of view, but that has nothing to do with the signs that you are showing off or not.”

He also said he believes in the ability of Quebecers to listen to what Singh has to offer.

“The ideas are important,” he said. “I believe that Quebecers are tolerant and inclusive and will accept that.”

Quebec MP Guy Caron and Manitoba MP Niki Ashton are also seeking the party’s top job along with Singh and Angus. Caron has the backing of eight MPs, while Ashton has received nods from five. Angus is supported by two.

Voting for a new federal NDP leader began on Monday, with the winner to be declared some time next month.

—Follow @kkirkup on Twitter

Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

2.5 years in Penticton courthouse over neighbour assault ends

Man pleaded guilty, withdrew, stood trial, pleaded guilty to assault described by Crown as ‘vicious’

Country star takes a dip for charity

Brett Kissel went for a dip in Okanagan Lake while in Penticton to raise money for Her International

Pursuit of Excellence defeats OHA in female prep hockey final

Okanagan Hockey Academy lost to Pursuit of Excellence 6-3 at the CSSHL final in Penticton

Oliver holds onto Wine Capital of Canada designation

It might be hard to swallow for other communities but Oliver remains Wine Capital of Canada

Carmi students start their day with Olympic inspiration

Brent Hayden, 2012 swimming bronze medalist, waded through Penticton and Summerland schools

What’s happening

Find out what events are taking place this weekend in the Okanagan and Shuswap

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Salmon Arm community cheers on Natalie Wilkie as she wins first gold medal

Local skier tops the podium in 7.5km race at the PyeongChang Paralympics

Experts: Society has a role in trying to prevent domestic violence

Experts are speaking out following the murder of a woman and her son in Ontario

Progress on fixing Phoenix pay system backlog could be short-lived: Ottawa

Feds have said they won’t try to recover money overpaid until all outstanding issues are fixed

Northern lights chasers in Canada discover new type named ‘Steve’

Phenomenon linked to a powerful current created by charged particles in Earth’s upper atmosphere

Washington state backs B.C. in pipeline dispute

Governor Jay Inslee says he is ‘allied’ with the province on Trans Mountain expansion projection

SAY WHAT? Readers weigh in on high-speed rail to U.S.

B.C. to contribute $300,000 to a million-dollar business study on the proposed project

Most Read