We can find the answers in some of the things that Nathan Cullen has said when he announced his run for the leadership, and since that date.
What becomes clear is that this is a man with a mission:
Because it’s time for the next generation to take the next step…delivering a progressive government for a progressive country.
Note the two foundation stones of this man's message: that he represents a generational shift, and is fighting for a progressive government.
Cullen is now 38, and has been an MP for seven years. He ran without any political experience. Why did he run? Because he did not like the exclusive nature of politics that the sitting MP in the riding had advocated:
I’d heard my MP at the time give what I call the “them” speech. The “them” was anyone not like the people in the room. It was wrong. And I decided right then to do something about it. Because “we” wanted in.
So he started off to right what he saw as a wrong.
And he started practising what he calls the "new politics". He believes the "new politics" works:
I’ve seen politicians tell the room what they want it to hear. I’ve watched leaders and parties shift their beliefs like a weather vane. And I’ve seen how that fails our country.
He believes that our country is ripe for honest politics:
But I look at our government now, and think it’s just not working. Which is why now’s the time for an honest discussion about the direction our politics is going in…and how we must change it for the better.
His driving force in deciding to go head on against the Topps and Mulcairs of the party is simply this: It is time for a change:
And there’s one truth I’ve believed since being elected seven years ago…it’s time to do politics differently. Why? This country doesn’t have time to lose. We can’t afford eight more years of Stephen Harper.
That one sentence – We can't afford eight more years of Stephen Harper - will resonate with NDP members during the months left before the March 2012 choosing of their new leader. And it will resonate far wider, too. Liberals and Green Party members and Canadians who are not members of any party, will find they agree with that statement.
We can't afford eight more years of Stephen Harper.
That is the touchstone of this man's mission. To end Stephen Harper's brand of politics, and to replace it with a new brand of politics.
Cullen believes that change is possible in Canada:
Because when [Jack Layton] extended his hand to Quebecers and invited them to build a better country together, they said yes. So don’t tell me change isn’t possible.
It's hard to argue with that belief. Jack Layton's NDP swept aside the separatist Bloc party, reduced them to ashes, and sent 59 NDP MPs to Parliament, many young and inexperienced. In Canadian terms, that was a revolution – bloodless, gunless, but a revolution. A revolution of ideas, of desires; a turning away from apathy and disinterest; a turning towards a bigger role for that province in the nation's affairs.
Cullen wants to build something different for the country:
We don’t want politics that divide rural Canadians form those in cities. Eastern Canada versus the west. Quebec from everyone else. Politics based on crass political calculations serve Stephen Harper, not citizens. Make no mistake. I don’t want to just beat Stephen Harper. I want to beat the way he does politics... Not to beat Stephen Harper for the sake of it. But to beat him with purpose and vision, send his kind of politics to the dustbin of history where it belongs, and get a progressive government that this country’s progressive majority deserves.
How many millions of Canadians have gone to the polls in the past three elections hoping against hope that they could send the divisive, wedge politics of Stephen Harper to the dustbin?
You can count me in that number.
And yet Harper has survived, and won a majority.
If the system is broken, doing the same thing that failed but hoping for a different result is the definition of political stupidity.
Cullen realizes it is broken; he's acknowledged that publicly (something many of our politicians have refused to do); and he has come up with an alternative to fix it:
“We clearly know that our voting system is broken,” Mr. Cullen said, “and the same broken voting system that we have is not going to change things for the better and get us out of the mess with respect to climate change, poverty, and Canada loss of its place in the world.”
With Harper having a majority of seats, it cannot be fixed by legislation, and the Tories don't want to in any case. So Cullen is doing what voters want their politicians to do: Fix it:
He challenged the NDP and other parties to put down their "bayonets for a moment in order to get something larger than ourselves accomplished."
Don't preach high faluting principles and sit on your hands.
Make it happen.
And the Cullen Plan could make it happen. It could replace the Harper government with a government closer to the one that 60% of the voters have voted for in the past three elections.
Now that is something voters can understand.
And vote for.