Dion launch faces carbon tax protest

Yesterday, the election campaign began and Liberal leader Stephane Dion’s campaign launch was held in Ottawa at the Billings Estate, a city of Ottawa operated property in the middle of Ottawa.

Organizers were expecting about 1000 people (about 100 from each Ottawa area riding) but only turned out about 300 according to Kady.

The Ontario Landowners association turned up to protest the event and proceeded up Riverside to Cabott, the small residential street which is the only road to the venue.  The Landowners where protesting Dion’s carbon tax in favour of more property rights.

Liberals formed a human wall at the gates of Billings Estate to block the Landowners from accessing the event, held on public land.

Liberal wall blocking path to the Billings Estate

Farmers vs. Liberals

Liberals greet landowners

Stephane Dion

Landowners protest Dion’s carbon tax

The Landowners

More landowners

Question for Stephane Dion

At tomorrow’s campaign launch for Stephane Dion, somebody should ask the Liberal leader if his campaign plans to offset the carbon used by his buses, and plane and whether or not these offsets will fall under their election spending cap. Also, will local campaigns also buy carbon credits?

Steve Janke has already done the math on Stephane Dion’s jet-fuel thirsty plane, but has Dion done the math on running a carbon-neutral campaign? Liberal election expenses certainly will not be revenue neutral as costs are expected to run them further into the red.

How might this government fall?

Stephane Dion won’t return Stephen Harper’s phone calls. The Prime Minister wants to get Dion on the line so the perception can be built that the PM is doing everything he can to make the fall session of Parliament work. Mr. Dion is avoiding the PM’s calls in order to appear to be in the position of power regarding this latest showdown, but of course, Dion risks playing in the narrative that he’s not allowing Parliament to work.

It seems that the Prime Minister wants to go to an election this fall. He doesn’t need to worry about the fixed election date legislation if he wants to do so.

A simple confidence motion by the Conservatives would do the trick:

“This House resolves that a carbon tax would destroy this country and that Canadians do not trust politicians when it comes schemes of tax shifting. This House has confidence in this government to [lower the income tax/introduce tax splitting/decrease the GST to 3%/cut corporate tax] (pick one or two) because such conservative measure(s) are the best way forward for Canadians”

NDP and Bloc would vote against. If Dion abstains, his Green Shift loses any authority and months of campaigning is gone. It would be argued further that Dion would want to go to an election on the issue of his carbon tax so abstaining from this vote would be the end of him as leader of the Liberal Party. If Mr. Dion votes against, we go to an election with Dion defending a carbon tax and the Conservatives proposing tax cuts. The election is then defined on tax policy rather than the environment.

Stephane Dion suffers strategic communications leak

The Prime Minister recently announced a new set of by-elections to be held in early September. Stephane Dion, the Liberal leader, is facing renewed pressure to deliver during these contests and a number of observers have declared this to be a test of confidence in the man as quarterback of that party. If he fails in one or more ridings, Dion will face calls to step down. This comes after the announcement of the beleaguered Green Shift, a hail mary of a policy for Dion and commentators have noted that the policy will be the cornerstone of any future Liberal platform and will serve as a test run for this round of by-elections.

Therefore, it should be troubling for Dion to learn that there are members of his own political staff that are actively undermining the man at this critical time by leaking strategic communications that have landed right in my inbox. Take a look at this ten-percenter template that I received courtesy of a source at the Liberal Research Bureau.

Read this document on Scribd: greenshift

The document is a template for Liberal MPs to message on the Dion Liberal Green Shift. Dion’s staff sent along the Microsoft Publisher file of the document above. It doesn’t get more original than that from LRB. You can download the file here.

If you’re trying to find a silver lining in this by speculating that perhaps this was a brilliant strategic leak in order to get a Conservative blogger to spread Liberal policy for free, this also landed in my inbox courtesy of LRB:

Read this document on Scribd: greenshaft

It appears that some kids in LRB were having a bit of fun while their boss was away. The document also came in the form of a Microsoft Publisher file and you can download it here. The derivative version of the Liberal ten-percenter is a bit disturbing as it is insulting to francophones as Dion’s staffers mock his accent. There’s also a literary reference to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin in the name of the fictional candidate Simon Legree. I haven’t figured that one out yet (UPDATE: Simon Legree is a literary reference to greed probably referring to Dion’s tax shift as a money grab from Canadians). This spoof on the ten-percenter by LRB is disrespectful of Dion and is juvenile. The lit piece leak in its original design format and the forwarding of the derivative piece mocking Dion are evidence that there are members of Dion’s trusted staff that are undermining their leader at this critical time. If Dion has a poor showing in the upcoming by-elections, he may be asked to resign as Leader and some Liberal staffers may only be trying to hasten that exit.

We’re also seeing evidence of Dion being undermined in a recent blog posting critical of Dion’s team which was recently stomped down by Dion loyalists. The posting was deleted but the subsequent apology explains the sequence of events.

Also, on the Guelph Mercury blog today, we see a pattern of Liberals using name-calling to diminish their opponents. Most disturbing for Liberal partisans though is that some of their staffers are doing it to their leader as well.

During the 2005-2006 General Election, there was talk of a mole in the Liberal war-room leaking information to the media and to Conservative bloggers. At that time there was a Chretien faction and a Martin faction. The Liberal Party under Dion is so fractured that they emphasize unity (“stronger together”) to convince their factious partisans rather than swing voters.

UPDATE (8/1): Last night, I was called and invited to meet up with Sarah Bain, a senior communications officer in Dion’s office. Bain wanted to put the Liberal side of the story out there. We had a great chat, and while it would have been helpful for them for me to reveal my source, Bain was respectful of confidentiality and didn’t even ask. I asked her to email me a quote,

“The Publisher file of the Green Shift ten percenter was distributed twice in the normal manner in which all LRB products are distributed. It was e-mailed to an extensive mailing list including all MP offices, as well as other caucus and party officials using a mailer program. It was also posted in the LRB Intranet site to which all Liberal offices in the Parliament Precinct have access.

“These products are distributed as Publisher files so that Liberal offices can modify them to their own needs. The intention is that MPs can put their own pictures and individual message in the file to personalize it before submitting it to printing.”

What Bain is communicating here is that while the ten-percenter was produced by LRB, it met a wide distribution list across the Liberal party from LRB to OLO to MP and Senators offices to even party HQ. Therefore, Bain suggests the leak could have come from a variety of Liberal offices. The original ten-percenter was dated July 7th, 2008 and has been in internal Liberal distribution for three weeks. Though the file has been circulated among Liberal staff, my source was LRB.

Bain agreed that the second piece was childish and disrespectful of Dion and noted that the wide distribution of the original ten-percenter among staff meant that any disgruntled Liberal staffer could have made the derivative piece. This may be, and it could have been forwarded to LRB because my source of the first and second document were the same.

To her credit, Bain is broadening the list of suspects and therefore trying to diminish the severity of the leak; if the ten-percenter was in the hands of more staffers then the level of secrecy of the document goes down.

As for the second piece, I’m sure that it is quite disturbing for Liberals to see evidence of their staff undermining their leader.

John Tory takes questions from Blogging Tories

and here was mine…

Stephen Taylor: In the context of manufacturing jobs in Ontario – Ontario being the economic engine of Canada – federal Liberal Leader Stephane Dion has recently proposed this carbon tax that he wants to take across the country to sell to Canadians this summer. We’ve seen measures in BC and in Quebec to start their own sort of carbon taxation. Do you believe that this is the right direction for Ontario in creating new jobs in a new economy or do you think it’s the wrong-headed approach for this province’s direction?

John Tory: Well, I think that a tax is a tax is a tax and when people describe a tax as revenue-neutral that sort of tries to somehow skirt the idea that somebody is still paying it even if you’re giving money back to somebody else but the bottom line is that somebody is still paying the tax. I think Dalton McGuinty had it right the first time when he said – and I almost quoted him – ‘Even the NDP knows that the last thing you do when the economy is struggling is impose new taxes’ and then for whatever reason – and I think you can all speculate and probably already have – what happened within the internal machinations of the Liberal Party he suddenly came forward a couple of weeks ago and said he thought this carbon tax was a good thing and that it was fine. And so, I think it’s the wrong approach. I’ve said that to the extend you need to have a price put on carbon in a cap-and-trade type of arrangement is better because it allows the marketplace to work on doing that sort of thing but I just think that the tax is the wrong approach and I just don’t understand why Mr. McGuinty isn’t far from endorsing it, he should be opposing it as he did before and it’s the wrong thing to hit the Ontario economy with at this point in time.

Stephen Taylor: So would you call upon the Federal Conservative environment minister to implement a cap-and-trade program?

John Tory: One thing I would call upon the Federal environment minister to do and on all of the other governments is they’ve got to do the same thing. The last thing industry needs – and this is the kind of example they tell me about when I’m sitting in these often small boardrooms of small manufacturing companies – they say ‘Look, we don’t know where to start with all the different governments having all of their different programs whether it’s on climate change or a host of other areas’ and I think what they should be doing is making a bigger effort than they have to actually agree on an approach, that is going to be an approach that is consistently adopted across the country. What if you are a manufacturing company that’s doing business in Canada, Quebec, Ontario and Alberta? You’re then confronted by all kinds of different rules – federal, provincial or otherwise – on the subject of carbon and climate change. Alberta, you can go get a grant to deal with carbon sequestration, Ontario it looks like they’ll go along with the taxing thing but also be in a cap-and-trade system, federally it looks like they’re going down the cap-and-trade road, and Quebec might have a tax. I think that’s part of the problem these days, that everyone’s doing their own thing and they think can all do that with impunity and not having to take account. So I would say to John Baird, I know it’s hard for him because these other governments go off and do their own thing, but I think the thing he might be trying to do – and he has been – trying to get some agreement on something we can do as a country – provinces and federal government – and at least have a uniform set of rules people would know about if they’re in business.

We get letters – Green shift satire

I received this a while ago from a friend and it was so absurd it made me laugh so I thought I’d share it with you. It was written in response to Stephane Dion’s Green Shift proposal.

Stephane Dion goes west

Dion says that the Liberal carbon tax is a way for Alberta to redeem its “damaged” reputation!

I don’t know what’s more amusing for communication blunders, this declaration by the Liberal leader or the time when he compared Alberta to a milk cow.

I also enjoyed this,

Although Dion’s personal reputation in Quebec has not fully recovered, the country is now restive and the threat of separation is low, the former university professor said.

“We have a united Canada, a Canada built on clarity and mutual respect. We did it with the courage, the determination, of a cowboy from Calgary,” Dion told Liberal party supporters yesterday.

I know he was being figurative, but one has to wonder if he could have been referencing Stephen Harper.

The Liberal Party and alleged trademark infringement

Last Thursday, on day behind schedule, the Liberal Party unveiled their “Green Shift” plan to caucus and to the national media. Liberal friends tell me that their leader finally gave the best performance of his career as party leader despite his later communications stumbles when asked to defend the plan on CBC’s National and The House.

The Liberals also launched a website at thegreenshift.ca to provide a location where Canadians could download their plan. I thought that the site was ripe for parody and a good-natured ribbing so I immediately registered theshiftygreen.ca and went to work creating a knock-off of their website from a humourous and cynical point of view. The site, uh, shifted focus from the lofty and abstract environmental claims of the “Green Shift” plan to what it really is, a fiscal outline of the Liberal’s election platform. The site included the blog of Stephane Dion’s new dog “Revenue Neutred” and encouraged Canadians to submit their emails and “sign up for behaviour modification”. The site was quite successful and captured the attention of the Toronto Star, National Newswatch and the blogging community.

There was one slight snag, however. In knocking-off the Liberal website, I neglected to “knock-off” the Liberal logo enough to satisfy the legal concerns of the Liberal Party. I received a call from their lawyer letting me know that my use of their logo poses trademark concerns and we very amicably agreed that the solution to their dilemma would be to create a derivative work of their logo. I received the following email to confirm the conversation.

The telephone call was a nice courtesy from the Liberals and I recognized that I may have been in error and I set out to create a different version of their logo to compliment the site. Here is the original:

and the changed version:

I even called the lawyer back to confirm that the logo was changed enough to satisfy their requirements. He assured me that the logo was different enough from the Liberal brand and thanked me for the cooperation. He joked that he even laughs and encourages his own team to do similar parodies of Conservatives when the opportunity arises.

Now, I read with great interest that the Liberal Party is in a trademark snafu of their own. Apparently, the term “Green Shift” belongs to a Toronto-based company that is:

“Developing a looping support network of Responsible, Ethical Companies in order to Shift us into a world where capitalism is more in harmony with nature, and where success is defined by more than greed.”

Here is the trademark registration of “Green Shift”

The company has complained,

“For us to take this further (against the Liberals), it’s a David and Goliath problem,” Wright said. “We’re fine on our own, without any political affiliation. We’ve done everything to build our name on trust and integrity.”

Stephane Dion’s communications director Mark Dunn said of the “Green Shift” name use,

“A courtesy call was made last Monday in advance of (the) launch to let them know they might get increased traffic”

Those Liberals are so courteous, don’t you think? First they call me to let me know that I’ve allegedly run afoul of their trademark rights (I complied immediately), and now the Liberals aren’t budging when someone else comes calling protesting the allegedly inappropriate use of their brand.

A Liberal spokesman discounted the company’s protests that the Liberals mimicked Green Shift’s web domain name, by adding the article “the” before Greenshift.ca.

“We rightly own the domain name,” said Dunn. “We are not a commercial threat to the company. The content of our site is about policy, not products.”

While one site is about products and one site is about policy, both sites are about the environment. The Liberals would have a better defence (but it would still be faulty) if they argued that the “green” in “green shift” referred to hard-earned money earned by families that drive their kids to soccer practice rather than a reference to environmental sustainability.

The Liberals should promptly and cooperatively comply with the concerns of Green Shift Inc.