Just where does Ignatieff stand on the HST? Or on anything?

A week ago, I wrote about BC Liberal party MP Ujjal Dosanjh’s characterization of the BC HST as the “Harper Sales Tax”. I pointed out that it was quite a stretch for the former NDP Premier of that province, given that the party he formerly led in that province put the blame squarely on the provincial policy writers — the BC Liberal government.

Dosanjh responded to my comments explaining that the BC Liberals and federal Liberals are two different parties and suggested I was trying to link the two, but yet he’s the one who went out of his way to shift his scorn from those Liberals to the Conservatives in Ottawa. Politics is local and Dosanjh — scraping by with a narrow victory in 2008 by 22 votes — is tapping into a hotly debated populist issue in that province. But is this wise for him?

Despite this, does he have a point? While Dosanjh acts as an apologist for Liberal premier Gordon Campbell, essentially decrying that “Harper made him do it”, tax harmonization was suggested and incentivized at the federal level. However, if harmonization is unpopular in BC, voters are likely to blame those that signed off of on the policy and implemented it into law — ie. the jurisdictional authority — the BC Liberal government. And while we awkwardly parse how related or non-related these Liberals are to those Liberals and which Liberals like taxes and which ones don’t, the overall story then evolved.

Dosanjh’s words rang a bit more hollow this week when Ontario finance minister Dwight Duncan — a Liberal himself — said that Michael Ignatieff had approved of the HST and would help Ontario along its path to harmonization should he become Prime Minister. These Liberals, as Mr. Dosanjh will undoubtedly note, are very much related to their federal Liberal cousins.

Yesterday, Ignatieff’s finance critic John McCallum cited a “miscommunication” when it came to his leader’s position on the HST, while today Ontario Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty said that Ignatieff gave him the “clearest of impressions” that he would support the tax.

These days it seems difficult to nail Michael Ignatieff down on any controversial issue. His position on a number of issues from Iraq, to George W Bush, to coercive interrogation, to a Liberal-NDP coalition, to harmonization have evolved drastically over time. By refusing to settle on any particularly substantive issue, Ignatieff is trying to give the impression that he supports your point of view on public policy (whatever it may be). A cynical observer might suggest that this strategy may work for the disengaged soft Liberal supporter.

However, as anyone that runs a focus group will tell you, on the issue of taxes Liberals have always had an wide credibility gap to bridge. Now that two Liberal provincial governments are implementing a harmonized sales tax while the federal Liberal leader seems to at best support it or at worse waffle on it, Liberals — of varied associations — are finding the gap becoming a gulf. For Ujjal Dosanjh, whose riding lists crime as the other top-of-mind issue — another focus group nightmare for the Liberals — perhaps its time to focus on new messaging.

Comments

comments

  • David

    This again goes back to the leadership race or the lack of one . The Libs. deliberately avoided a heated leadership contest to allow the Red Sea to part for Iggy.( you know, the guy that said Canada was a “herbivorian boy scout”). The result is a void in policy and vision for the country . No debate, no policy.

    The other obvious point is that the Libs feel they blundered when they pulled out their platform too early last time. It is best to keep it under wraps so the unsuspecting public won't have enough time to properly expose the flaws.

    Right now the Libs. appear more angry and resentful than anything else. For an opposition party that is a recipe for failure. The Narnia forest image (I swear he was eating Turkish delights) is being overshadowed by subtle shots at our military and suggestions that Canadians are no longer proud.Until they come up with a platform that is all they got.It ain't pretty.

  • Truthfairy

    So what's the story, was he for it before he came out from a thinking thoughts episode and found out it was controversial?

    How can a person who aspires to lead the country be relying people like McCallum or Dosanjh to answer for him? Is there some reason he can't speak for himself on this issue?

    Dosanjh is very active lately, is he suffering from desperation syndrome? I find him to be downright nasty and befuddled.

  • Bec

    This is what happens when you haven't an aptitude for leadership.
    Our first real glimpse of Ignatieff not taking control and leading, was the mutiny by his NFLD MP's.
    These 'all over the map' positions that have become a daily distraction, clearly demonstrates that the Liberals have 77 leaders in this years version of the Liberal Party of Canada.

    We should all be very, very afraid because the supporters of this party believe that he deserves to lead this country. Clearly, he is unbearably unqualified.

  • wilson

    From atricle found on http://www.bourque.com/

    Ignatieff and the HST, an update
    September 16,
    Canada Politics Examiner, Brian Lilley

    ''Back in March John McCallum stood in the same House of Commons Foyer and told reporters that
    the HST is “absolutely what the doctor ordered for the economy.”
    He went on the say that bringing in
    the HST would help create the “jobs of tomorrow”
    the very thing Ignatieff says Canada needs to create and that a Liberal government will focus on.

    As for Ignatieff's personal position on the HST,
    the premier's office sends along this clipping from the Globe and Mail
    as evidence “Federal Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said yesterday he also supports tax harmonization, but said the Harper government should not have cut a deal with just Ontario.”
    Interesting, interesting indeed….''

    http://www.examiner.com/x-22884-Canada-Politics

  • greg61

    I don't think there is any controversy at all. The Federal Conservatives think teh harmonized tax is a good idea because it will make our manufacturers more competitive. It's up to each province to then decide how to implement it. Obviously they could lower the tax rate in Ontario from 8% to whatever level it needs to be to keep the new tax revenue neutral, or nearly so, if Dalton so chose. Unfortunately his disastrous 1-1/2 terms have decimated manufacturing, bent over for the unions, and reduced revenues in spite of (or arguably because of) his many tax increases.

  • http://theislandview.blogspot.com/ Scott

    Michael Ignatieff reverses his position so often and with such speed that if GM Canada decided to manufacture a sports car in his honour, it would have 5 speeds, 1 forward the rest in reverse.

  • MrEd

    in Vancouver we refer to doozy as Mr 22… as in 22 votes

  • MrEd

    in Vancouver we refer to doozy as Mr 22… as in 22 votes