The number of people courting Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen to run for leader of the B.C. NDP has been night and day compared to when the job was last open two years ago.
Cullen is considering making the move from federal politics to the provincial arena as the NDP prepare to replace outgoing leader Adrian Dix and he said there's been a lot of outreach from party members encouraging him to throw his hat into the contest.
"I think that's directly connected to having run federally for the leadership and gotten to know people and presented myself that way," Cullen said during a visit to Prince George. "That's been a big factor in me deliberating this long, people that I know and trust and respect have been asking me to open my heard and mind to this prospect."
Although he finds the idea of leading the provincial party intriguing, Cullen said he needs to balance his desire to continue his work in Ottawa as well as family considerations before making a final decision. He hopes to be able to make an announcement in a few weeks and said he will declare his intentions in advance of a B.C. NDP post-election convention slated for Nov. 15 to 17 in Vancouver.
A subsequent leadership convention is expected to be held by the middle of next year.
"The party is also musing about a pretty early timeline for this, a short run," Cullen said. "That's not a lot of runway for me and that's one of the hard things for me to figure out - is there enough time."
In the meantime, Cullen said he will continue to consult with his constituents to get their views on how they think he should proceed. He's held open houses in different parts of his riding, which stretches from Fort St. James to the north coast and said the response has been positive.
If he does run for provincial leader, Cullen will have to decide whether or not he should resign his federal seat first.
"I've always leaned towards I might have to [step down], but there's not a lot of precedence for it," Cullen said.
"Bob Rae [ran for Ontario NDP leader in 1982] and he stayed on as an MP, and people in the riding who are asking me to run provincially are asking me to keep the seat until the race is over, they don't want to lose both ways."
Cullen said he'd also weigh the cost of a federal by-election in his riding, which he said could cost upwards of $350,000.
No other candidates have declared for the provincial leadership, which became open when Dix announced his intention to step down last month. Caucus members like finance minister Mike Farnworth are seriously considering a run for the job, but Cullen said his position as a relative outsider on the provincial scene could play to his advantage.
"I tick some boxes that people are looking for, just be not being in the caucus, not having been there in the '90s, being under 50, those seem to be things people are looking for and I just by circumstance happen to meet those requirements," he said.