As candidates in the race for the New Democratic Party leadership prepare to debate the role of Canada's big cities, Nathan Cullen has received the endorsement of two fellow MPs from his home province of British Columbia.
Mr. Cullen will join the other contenders for the top NDP job at a debate in Toronto on Wednesday night. The theme is "An Agenda for Canadian Cities" and the candidates will be asked to discuss the role played by large urban centres and the needs of those who live in them.
The other candidates include Brian Topp, Thomas Mulcair, Niki Ashton, Paul Dewar, Peggy Nash, Martin Singh and Romeo Saganash.
They have already faced off at one official debate in Ottawa and will take part in five others before the day of the vote. In addition, there are locally organized debates like the one that will take place in Toronto.
On Wednesday morning, Mr. Cullen's team issued a news release to say he had received the support of Fin Donnelly, the MP for New Westminster–Coquitlam and Port Moody, and Alex Atamanenko, the MP for B.C. Southern Interior.
Support in British Columbia could be critical to winning the contest, which will be decided March 24, because there are so many party members there and, in the one-member-one-vote system, numbers will decide the winner.
Mr. Cullen does not have the support of all B.C. New Democrat MPs. Libby Davies, the veteran politician who represents Vancouver East, for instance, has backed Mr. Topp.
But the nods from Mr. Donnelly and Mr. Atamanenko could boost Mr. Cullen's chances. He is, so far, the only candidate in the race to have suggested co-operating with the Liberals to select candidates for the next federal election as a way of defeating Stephen Harper's Conservatives.
Mr. Atamanenko said in the news release that Mr. Cullen's support for voting reform and openness to doing politics differently were key factors in his decision to give him his support.
"The fact is that to defeat Stephen Harper, we're going to have to win Conservative seats outside big cities," Mr. Atamenko said. "Nathan Cullen's record of bringing urban and rural people together is a big plus."
Mr. Donnelly, his party's fisheries and oceans critic, said he is supporting Mr. Cullen because of his opposition to the proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline.
Mr. Cullen also has the support of four New Democrat members of B.C.'s provincial legislature.
"I'm honoured to have the support of Fin and Alex because New Democrats know the best way to get things done on issues like the pipeline is to come together," Mr. Cullen said. "Stopping Stephen Harper's pipeline isn't just a rural issue or a coastal issue, it's an important issue."