Dion was an unexpected gift, but Ignatieff was an original Tory prospect

During the Liberal convention in December of 2006, Bob Rae was seen by Conservative strategists as the most fearful prospect that the Liberals had on offer to their delegates. Most messaging that came from the Conservative camp during this time was against Rae and the party did its best to suggest to Liberal delegates that he would deliver economic disaster to Canada like he did for Ontario. The Tories did their best political maneuvering to spike Rae’s bid because focus testing showed that enough time had passed between the sour days of Bob Rae the NDP Premier and the “give-him-a-chance” Bob Rae Liberal leadership candidate. Dedicated Ontario political watchers would remember tough economic times under Rae but apparently the modern dynamic had changed for the typical voter. “He has the chance to be a Canadian Bill Clinton” was how I heard the smooth talking and charming candidate described by a particularly concerned senior Conservative.

Yet, times have changed again and the economic recession is now centre-stage and it doesn’t take a surplus of political sense to acknowledge that a Rae leadership win would have been trouble for the Liberals in the 2006 leadership race, and that in 2009 — if it had occurred. During the 2006 race, as the front-runner, the Conservatives had already constructed a thorough game plan against Ignatieff and believe they had a workable strategy against the American-tenured academic should he become leader of Canada’s natural ruling party. “Ignatieff is awkward and tends to put his foot in his mouth a lot” was the consensus among senior Tory partisans. My sense was that during the 2006 leadership race, while Conservatives were concerned about Rae, they were less so about Ignatieff. And then Dion happened and he became a surprise, a wonderful gift and an unexpected best case scenario for the Conservatives and their Prime Minister.

Today, Michael Ignatieff is the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and he’s starting to show strong gaffe potential, a lack of clear policy direction and a generally aloof attitude towards the Canadian electorate. In fairness, I’d say that Ignatieff is much more calm and calculated that his hapless predecessor and instead, we find him focused on the long game. This should help Liberal prospects. Yet, Ignatieff is failing along the predicted lines of the original Conservative assessment. Yesterday, in Cambridge, the good professor mused that “we will have to raise taxes”. As a front-runner-turned-crowned-leader of the Liberal Party, Ignatieff never needed to wedge and never needed to segment in order to differentiate his campaign. It is unclear as to why in a trajectory largely devoid of policy pronouncements that of the rare policy musings he is making, he is offering ideas that are generally seen as unpopular. For example, in an interview with CityTV’s Richard Madan last December, the Liberal leader mused that he’s open to reversing the Conservative’s 2% GST cut.

Few election campaigns have seen bold policy stands by leaders fail so spectacularly. Despite this, we recently saw how the idea of funding non-Catholic faith-based religious schools sunk the PC Party’s prospects during the last Ontario election and for the Liberal Party of Canada, the carbon tax was a federal electoral disaster in 2008. Though Mr. Dion will be scapegoated with the carbon tax and conveniently shelved away, the Liberals will be considering the policy again at their next convention. Though in truth, Mr. Ignatieff was the original proponent of the tax.

Now it seems that Mr. Ignatieff is against such a tax but how can we be so sure given his reversal on this policy that his membership is now proposing? For Mr. Ignatieff, whether we’re taxed on carbon, income, or our purchases, what he’s made clear is that under his leadership our taxes would go up. Though cliché, this paraphrased statement holds:

“A carbon tax if necessary, but not necessarily a carbon tax.”

or rather, “a tax is necessary, but not necessarily a carbon tax.”

Mr. Rae would have been a wonderful leader for the Conservatives to oppose, unelectable as he would have been though disastrous for Canadians should have assumed residency at 24 Sussex Drive. Mr. Dion would have raised our taxes with a carbon tax. With Mr. Ignatieff, we know that while times are tough, he’d heap on increased government burden. At least with Mr. Dion, we would have known where it was coming from and how to brace ourselves. Terrible Liberal fiscal policy makes for good Conservative electoral prospects. Terrible and ambiguous Liberal fiscal policy makes for great Conservative electoral prospects.

Conservatives are looking forward to a Liberal party led by the professor on loan from Massachusetts. They’re anticipating the Canadian reaction of watching Mr. Ignatieff debate himself on how to best raise our taxes.

The Liberal Party policy amendment that’s causing a buzz this morning

123. Climate Change

WHEREAS:
Scientists confirm that human activity, especially the burning of fossil fuels, is altering the atmosphere, changing Earth’s climate, and damaging the environment; Urgent action is required to combat the adverse effects of climate change; Biofuel production from crops grown for fuel (rather than for food) contributes to higher food prices, and risks increasing poverty and hunger, particularly in the global South.

BE IT RESOLVED that the Liberal Party of Canada urge the next Liberal government of Canada to:

  1. Support unconditionally Canada’s commitment under the Kyoto Protocol by enacting comprehensive legislation designed to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Canada, including, but not limited to:

    1. establishing a carbon tax, a cap and trade system, or a combination of both, including hard
      limits on the emission of greenhouse gasses for large final emitters;

    2. providing financial support for energy efficiency and conservation measures, generating clean
      energy, and public education on the effects of global warming.
  2. Initiate constructive negotiations relating to the post-Kyoto period intended to build an international climate regime that includes:
    1. deeper mandatory GHG emission reductions for industrialized countries;

    2. expanding the group of countries committed to binding emission reductions;
    3. protection for tropical forests;
    4. prioritizing climate-friendly technologies.
  3. Combat climate change by committing Canada to a 25-40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (relative to 1990 levels) by 2020, and an 80% reduction by 2050.
  4. Favour the production of biofuels from forest product and agricultural residues.

Liberal Party of Canada (Quebec)

Questions:
1. Will Michael Ignatieff and his OLO/Liberal HQ team do everything in their power to prevent this policy from making it to the main floor of the convention?
2. If approved by Liberal delegates, will Michael Ignatieff allow this policy to be binding upon the Liberal Party?
3. If not, does this mean that the Liberal Party is ceding environmental policy to the NDP/Greens… to the Conservatives? (the Conservatives have passed legislation on GHG reduction)
4. Will the passing of such a resolution merely reflect the Liberal record of more talk than action on GHGs and climate change?
5. Last month, Michael Ignatieff said “We took the carbon tax to the public and the public didn’t think it was such a good idea”. Does this mean that Liberal Party policy is determined via polling rather than by party principle?
6. Will the Liberal convention (including flights, hotels, presentations and other travel) be carbon-neutral? Will the Liberal Party be buying carbon offsets for the entire carbon footprint of the convention?

Dion will implement carbon tax even if there’s a recession

After a joint address to the Empire Club and Canadian Club yesterday, Stephane Dion faced reporters. The exchange between Richard Madan from City and Dion was interesting.

MADAN (Voiceover): But Dion has shifted his own tune lately, suggesting that Canada may be headed into recession. And he only mentioned his controversial Green Shift plan just once at the end of his speech.

MADAN (to Dion): You mentioned “recession” in your speech. So if indeed Canada does hit a recession will you delay implementing your carbon tax?

DION: First, it’s not that. It’s the Green Shift.

MADAN: No, I know. But the question is: if things get worse, will you delay implementing a carbon tax, Green Shift, whatever you want to call it? Will you delay it?

DION: It’s not carbon tax, it’s a Green Shift. It’s to put a cost…

MADAN (interupts): Will you delay it?

DION: No, because it’ll be good for the economy.

Did you get that? If Canada falls into recession, Dion believes his “don’t call it a carbon tax” Green Shift will be just want Canada needs to get out of the storm.

Recently, Maclean’s editor Andrew Coyne has stated that he believes that there may be something to it when Harper complains that Canada’s opposition is “cheering for a recession”.

The Opposition parties have gone mad with attacks explaining that Mr. Harper doesn’t care about the economy because he’s not panicking. The opposition will be upset to learn that the World Economic Forum has declared Canada’s banking system the most stable in the world.

There have been cries of dissent from Dion’s own ranks on the Green Shift and it’s timetable for implementation. Liberal candidate Shawn Murphy told the Charlottetown Guardian on September 12th, “This winter, I don’t think you’re going to see the green shift even if the Liberals got elected.” Former Minister of Revenue John McCallum conceded about Dion’s carbon tax, “I cannot say to you that no Canadian will be unharmed by this… it’s not going to be totally painless for every human being”.

Even former NDP Ontario Premier Bob Rae is
sounding more lucid on the economy as he suggested yesterday that the implementation of the carbon tax should be delayed.

There’s an old saying that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. While Mr. Dion’s plan aims to address environmental concerns with his plan, the ballot question will ask who is the best manager of the economy as crises become a daily occurrence in foreign markets. Canada has a sound economic position — indeed, the fundamentals are strong — and while members of his own team have second thoughts about his carbon tax, Mr. Dion is ready to add new untested variables to the economic equation in a time that calls for the kind of stability that comes from an economist Prime Minister rather than untested tax theory from a man who is not.

Liberals rip down Conservative signs with a blessing from Elections Canada

This campaign has seen a lot of things, from MPs using office budgets to advertise during the writ to past blogs of present candidates coming back to haunt parties that have not properly conducted the vetting process. But this story, as reported by the Charlottetown Guardian is perhaps the one to top.

Conservative candidate Tom DeBlois posted signs throughout his riding advising constituents to “say no” to Dion’s carbon tax. These signs weren’t the standard blue with the standard Conservative logo but they were authorized by the official agent for Tom DeBlois.

Liberals, infuriated by opposition to their leader’s carbon tax, or perhaps just simply frustrated the plan isn’t going over as well as Al Gore’s private jet on the way to another Inconvenient presentation, drove throughout the riding and tore down the signs.

If this sounds like the standard campaign dirty tricks, read on. There’s an interesting twist. Turns out that Elections Canada actually authorized the take-down of the signs. Even if the signs were illegal, why did Elections Canada outsource it’s muscle to the Liberal Party? With pre-election suggestions by the Conservatives of Elections Canada working hand-in-glove with the Liberal Party, one would presume Elections Canada would be more careful and do better to try and dispel this allegation. The problem for the Liberals, and for Elections Canada in particular, the signs are completely legal and the subjective arbiter of elections fails to secure the democratic process from abuse once again and in this particular case they enabled it.

Elections Canada has admitted it was wrong to have the signs removed. The executive director of the Liberal Party has apologized.

While we’re on the topic of signs, let’s bring up some suspicious advertising that Elections Canada should take a look into. Of course, as Conservatives we don’t expect them to give a green light to our (or rather their) enforcement division.


Stapled to municipal sign


Stapled to utility pole


(from Guelph) Authorized by an official agent? Who knows.

Consider the stark difference in how Elections Canada enforces its rules.

1) In this case here, Liberals complain about legal signs, Elections Canada authorizes the Liberals to take them down.

2) Liberal MP Anthony Rota buys an identifying himself as an MP and the ad runs during the writ period unauthorized by his official agent. Conservatives complain but Elections Canada declares the ad legal.

3) Liberals provide advertising for a corporation on their campaign plane. We still haven’t heard from Elections Canada if this was done for free or whether other considerations were involved.

4) Finally, an NDP supporter puts an NDP sign in their rented apartment window, the landlord threatens eviction and Elections Canada washes their hands of the matter.

Green Party releases platform

Here’s the platform of the Green Party of Canada:

Read this document on Scribd: GPC platform

Notes:
– Money for a Green VC fund for green R&D
– renegotiation of NAFTA
– corporate tax cuts for carbon reductions
raise the GST to 6%
– combines the Liberal Green Shift carbon tax with NDP/Conservative plans for cap-and-trade. Also has a more intense GHG target than the Conservatives with 30% reduction from 1990 levels rather than Conservative’s absolute carbon reduction of 20% by 2020 from 2006 levels.
– raise taxes on cigarettes
– labeling of GMOs
– Single payer, universal healthcare
income splitting for everyone
raise income tax exemption to $20k
Guaranteed Annual Income
– meet 0.7% GDP pledge for foreign aid
– turn Afghanistan mission over to the UN

From carbon taxes, to income splitting to massive increases in foreign aid, I look forward to the costing of this platform.

There is not one word in this platform on proportional representation as it relates to democratic reform. Has the Green Party dropped this from it’s goals? Was this dropped at their last party convention on policy? Is this just more evidence that PR is a distasteful policy to the Liberal Party and a Red-Green alliance depends on seat sharing and first-past-the-post rather than proportional representation? Is the NDP now the only party that supports PR?

Does Elizabeth May fundamentally agree or disagree?

One thing that we can all agree upon is that Elizabeth May talks too fast and this has got her into some trouble in the past surrounding her February 2007 comments on TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin where she says “All the other politicians are scared to death to mention the word ‘tax’. And they think Canadians are stupid — and cannot — and I fundamentally agree with that assessment.”

As I mentioned in my interview on CBC, I was never of the mind that she had said “I” rather than “they” in the sentence where she says “they think Canadians are stupid”. What stunned me was the part where she said “and I fundamentally agree with that assessment”. I didn’t realize there was ambiguity over the pronoun until it was raised by other who saw my video and made comment over at Buckdog.

Now, as it has been confirmed, the audio was “they” but now May reveals that the real difference in interpretation was that she either meant “agree” or “disagree with that assessment”. In Steve Paikin’s Friday interview of May, the Green Party leader explains that she said “disagree”.

However, on Sunday’s CTV Question Period May has a different story that contradicts her explanation to Paikin. May said that she said “fundamentally agree with that assessment” in reference to another panelist who had made an observation that wasn’t recorded.

Most people that run for political office do it out of a love of service for their fellow Canadians. I do not doubt that May’s heart is in the right place. However, her reported off-hand comments after the panel discussion might reinforce for us another element of her thinking. She said “No I want [Hummer drivers] shot actually, jail is not good enough for them!” Of course, any reasonable person would understand that May was joking. However, some might interpret this as a streak of elitism in Ms. May. Some Canadians may get the impression that while she wishes to serve Canada, she likely thinks she knows what’s best for us.

Oh Danny Boy!

“A majority government for Stephen Harper would be one of the most negative political events in Canadian history” — Danny Williams, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador

These were Danny Williams words last week as reported by CTV.ca.

Stephane Dion is in BC today trying to sell that province on the benefits of yet another carbon tax. The folks in BC aren’t buying as their own provincial carbon tax has been very unpopular. Dion’s tour lands its carbon belching jet in BC while gas prices are higher than they’ve been in recent memory. While gas prices have risen due in part to Hurricane Ike ravaging the Texan coastline, British Columbians aren’t likely to give Dion a hero’s welcome.

So why is Danny Williams running an ABC (anyone but conservative campaign)? For Newfoundland and Labrador this would only amount to electing more Liberals.

Oil producing economies such as Saskatchewan and Alberta have already slammed Dion’s plan. Why would Danny Williams want to hurt his own province’s economic future? Despite the obvious masochism in Danny’s begging for taxation that will affect jobs in his resource sector, Stephane Dion’s carbon tax will have real-world effects for everyday Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

The “Caribou” ferry uses 41,000 litres of fuel (partially diesel, partially bunker) to travel one way between NS and NL. By working to help the Liberals form government, Danny would be advocating a 7 cent per litre tax be applied directly to Marine Atlantic crossings. How would he reconcile that? This ferry service is a vital link for residents of that province to access the rest of Canada. Stephen Harper’s recent announcement cutting the excise tax on diesel goes directly against Dion’s plan for increased taxation. Since Newfoundlanders and Labradorians import most of their food, Dion’s carbon tax will be felt quickly as most food arrives by diesel-fueled trucks and ferry.

The fishery is also an integral part of the economy in Newfoundland and Labrador. Fishers use diesel fuel and will also face a 7 cent per litre tax increase under Stephane Dion’s plan. How can Danny Williams say he is standing up for fishers when he supports Stephane Dion’s carbon tax?

Danny has received a lot of political mileage when it comes to facing off against the federal government. He did so under previous Liberal administrations. However, while Newfoundlanders and Labradorians may appreciate Danny’s right-or-wrong hard-headed defense of their province, on support for Dion and, by extension, his carbon tax-centred political platform, Danny is wrong.

Elizabeth May on Canadians and their distate for a carbon tax

May went on to say “but most politicians believe that if they say they are going to put on a carbon tax and reduce your income tax…they don’t think they can sell it. It is all about votes.”

Today we heard the news that Elizabeth May has been given the go-ahead to participate in the national leaders debate. Since this election will be a referendum on Stephane Dion’s leadership and his carbon tax, perhaps Mr. Dion can explain why he made a deal with May to have the Liberals stand-down in Central Nova and why May feels the way she does about Canadians who distrust politicians that want to raise their taxes.

h/t: audio quote from a compilation of quotes posted by Lore Weaver

On Liberal carbon tax hikes and Conservative excise tax cuts

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities put out this release today:

FCM Campaign Reality Check

Conservative Diesel Tax Cut proposal does nothing for transit riders, systems

A two cent cut in the excise tax on diesel fuel is worth $ 9.2 million per year to Canada’s transit systems – less than one quarter of one percent of their $ 4.8 billion in annual operating costs (Source: Canadian Urban Transit Association, 2007).

The proposed cut will cost the federal treasury $600 million per year. Less than two percent of those dollars, or one dollar in 60, will directly benefit transit systems.

A Strategic Counsel survey released last week showed that 8 in 10 Canadians think the federal government should dedicate more of its fuel tax revenues to repairing and building public transit systems. This announcement does not touch on investment needs.

Six in 10 Canadians say they would be more likely to take public transit if service was improved. The excise tax cut will do nothing to get more buses on the road or improve existing commuter rail service.

One in five Canadians are ready to switch to public transit because of the high price of filling up their cars. But most urban transit systems are at or beyond capacity at peak hours. New federal funding – not marginal tax cuts – are needed to help Canadians make the switch from cars to transit.

The priority for transit systems are for new investments, not cuts to the fuel tax.

For more information, contact: Maurice Gingues, FCM – (613) 907-6395

The mayor of Ottawa sent the following email out to all of the major city mayors across Canada:

The excise tax cut announced today by Stephen Harper was targeted towards farmers and truckers. However, as a side benefit, it helps municipalities which use diesel fuel for their buses and other forms of mass transit. The FCM complains that more could be done for transit costs by the federal government, however, today they were handed an unexpected bonus.