Year in review: 2016 pivotal for the Northwest and Canada, says MP Nathan Cullen

OTTAWA – As the House of Commons winds down for the year, MP Nathan Cullen says 2016 was a pivotal year for the Northwest and for Canada. “In Ottawa and around the country, we’re working to change how Canadians vote to elect their representatives. And here at home, we’re also changing the way Canadians think about our natural resources and how we protect our natural environment – and the Northwest is ground-zero for this critical shift.”

Cullen also cited milestone investments in key infrastructure projects around the Northwest. “The finalization of $16 million in funding for the Heart of the Hazeltons arena project is an incredible achievement for everyone who worked so hard in the community,” said Cullen.

Cullen also noted the $4.3 million to upgrade the Terrace Aquatic Centre, $4 million to upgrade the Smithers airport, and the opening of a new hospital on Haida Gwaii as just a few examples of important investments for the region in 2016.

It has also been a difficult year for communities like Houston, noted Cullen, which saw the Huckleberry mine close at the end of August. Cullen says discussions with community members at a May infrastructure townhall in Houston have prompted him to take up the idea of a “Communities in Transition” fund with his federal counterparts, to assist communities experiencing economic shut-downs and major layoffs.

As the NDP’s critic for democratic reform, Cullen has spent much of the year at the centre of the debate over voting reform, touring every province and territory with the special parliamentary committee and hosting a dozen townhalls of his own around British Columbia.

“We are on the verge of something historic,” said Cullen. “For too long, Canadians have felt like their votes don’t count. A new, fairer, more proportional voting system is within our reach. I’m energized and excited to keep pushing to make it a reality.”

The Northwest has also been in the national spotlight in the latter half of 2016, as major decisions were made on massive resource projects in the region. The federal government rejected the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and supertanker project on November 29th.

“That was a major victory for all those who stood together to protect our coast, rivers, and way of life against oil spills,” reflected Cullen. “The disaster at Bella Bella in October showed us that Canada’s spill response is anything but ‘world class’. It’s simply irresponsible to think that this should ever be a place for oil supertankers.”

On the other hand, the Trudeau government also approved the Pacific Northwest LNG proposal for Lelu Island. “Mr. Trudeau promised to be different, but instead he rubber-stamped this project under Stephen Harper’s broken environmental review process, and based on discredited company-funded science,” Cullen said.

“Hundreds of independent scientists have said the project’s site next to Flora Bank could devastate Skeena salmon and that’s simply unacceptable.” Cullen restated his commitment to urging the federal government and the proponent to relocate the LNG plant away from Flora Bank, potentially on Ridley Island, where it would be less likely to impact salmon.