Cullen keen to hold government to account as Ethics Chair

OTTAWA

MP Nathan Cullen says he is pleased and excited to have been asked to stand for Chair of the House of Commons’ influential Ethics Committee.

“This morning, Jack Layton asked me to take on this assignment on behalf of the Official Opposition,” Cullen said from Ottawa, where the 103-member NDP Caucus yesterday wrapped up two days of strategy meetings.

“I appreciate our leader’s confidence in my ability to fulfill such a major role and would be thrilled to take on the challenge.

“Ethics is a committee of huge influence in Ottawa and will be key to upholding our pledge to Canadians to fix what has become a scandal-ridden, closed and unaccountable government,” said Cullen.

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics was established in 2004 in response to the Gomery advertising scandal.  It is charged with the duty of scrutinizing the ethics of government and MPs.  A senior member of the Official Opposition traditionally chairs the committee; confirmation is expected soon after Parliament returns next week.

“Ethics is the horse the Conservatives rode when they formed government in 2006,” said Cullen. “Since then, we have seen a number of transgressions.  I look forward to the responsibility of holding the government to a higher standard.”

Cullen has long been recognized by colleagues of all political parties for his diplomacy skills, which will be central to managing the hot issues that come before the ethics committee.  The committee was the centre of investigations into the so-called in-and-out election financing scandal, unseemly Conservative logos on government cheques, as well as improper relations with lobbyists.

“I am keen to bring my experience and skills to the task of monitoring government conduct,” Cullen said.  “This is a heavy portfolio that needs a lot of work.”

Cullen said serving as ethics chair will complement his work in representing Skeena-Bulkley Valley constituents because the influential nature of the committee will give him even greater profile and influence in Ottawa.

A four-term MP, Cullen has previously served as NDP critic for youth, environment and national parks, and natural resources and energy.