Dion’s Carbon Tax

Unless you’ve been living in a cave or off on another planet for the past week, you’ve been hearing about “Dion’s carbon tax.” Stephane Dion, who has previously spoken out against a carbon tax and made assurances that he would not impose a carbon tax, has apparently changed his tune. Now that Dion has embraced this long time tenet of Green Party fiscal policy, he’s being conferred ownership of the idea. It’s “Dion’s” carbon tax, according to the media.

So, maybe a few Greens might feel like Dion “stole” a top plank in our platform. What can be done about it? Even if we stage an all-out campaign to remind people that the Green Party has embraced a carbon tax for years, it’s doubtful the media or anyone else will cease and desist with the label or the notion that the carbon tax is Dion’s baby.

Already, even before any hard details of the Dion version have been disclosed, the debate is raging. Nearly all of CTV’s Question Period on Sunday morning was devoted to the carbon tax. The Canadian blogosphere and op-ed pages are abuzz with pro’s and con’s. The parties are staking out their positions. We hear that Dion plans to spend the summer getting the word out and selling “his” carbon tax.

Fine. Let him sell it. Let the Grits sell Green Party policy. There are more of them, they’ve got more money than we do and they seem to be prepared to do the hard selling. Either we sold it to them or they took it from us. Now, they can sell it to Canadians and I propose that they get not too much help from us. They’ve got everyone from Andrew Coyne to David Suzuki in their corner, after all.

With all due respect to and notwithstanding Elizabeth’s unique non-compete deal with Dion; there are 306 ridings in which Greens will be competing with Liberals. Even though they have embraced one of our big policies, they are not the Green Party. At least one prominent Canadian Liberal blogger has divvied up the prospective vote and thinks the Liberals can use the carbon tax to siphon off 50% of our Green Party support.

Not long ago, Elizabeth posted an excellent blog item defining the uniqueness of the Green Party. She listed 31 policies that were GPC-only. I’m taking the liberty of quoting those here.

  1. A carbon tax, an indispensable step in getting the prices right in energy choices and allowing reduced income and payroll taxes.
  2. “Income-splitting” to reduce the tax burden on middle class couples.
  3. A continuing role in Afghanistan but within a transformed U.N. mission, legalizing and regulating the poppy trade for medicinal use, and bringing in more Islamic nations into the peace-keeping, security efforts in Southern Afghanistan through the U.N.
  4. An end to asbestos mining and export to developing countries. (truly outrageous that for all the talk about asbestos, only the Green Party is prepared to call for banning mining and export.)
  5. The phase out of nuclear power and uranium mining.
  6. The reform of the Divorce Act to make family law less of a battleground.
  7. To launch a national dialogue toward a Guaranteed Livable Income.
  8. The legalization of marijuana, to be controlled, regulated and taxed.
  9. The six month notice to get out of NAFTA with immediate re-negotiation of key provisions.
  10. Support for open source software and net neutrality.
  11. National shift to GE-free, organic agriculture and regional food self-sufficiency.
  12. A moratorium on new projects in the tar sands.
  13. Creation of a federal Department of Tourism
  14. Protect drinking water at its source (no other party will do this–the BC NDP jailed citizens for trying to protect drinking water).
  15. Amend the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to enshrine the right of Canadians to an ecological heritage that includes breathable air and drinkable water.
  16. Pass federal legislation to prohibit bulk water exports.
  17. Establish a National Parks completion budget; protect at least half of Canada’s Boreal Forest in a network of large interconnected protected areas as called for in the 2003 Boreal Forest Conservation Framework
  18. Zero waste, including laws requiring lifetime stewardship of products
  19. A cancer prevention strategy that includes a toxic-free Canada — taxing toxics and pollution; ending the production and use of the most dangerous toxic chemicals by 2012.
  20. Pan-Arctic waste management strategy.
  21. Shift funding from mega-freeway projects like Pacific Gateway that encourage urban sprawl and use the funds instead for public transit.
  22. Implement Genuine Progress Indicator (or Index of Well-being)
  23. Enact “living will” legislation to give person the choice to die with dignity.
  24. Explore establishing a new crown corporation to bulk purchase and dispense generic drugs – to bring down the costs of pharmacare.
  25. Pass pay equity legislation; immediately implement full pay equity for women employed in the federal sector and develop tax incentives for companies to meet gender and pay equity.
  26. Press professional societies to remove unnecessary barriers recognizing the professional credentials of immigrants.
  27. Canada must support and implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
  28. Revamp CIDA to focus on developing community-based green economies, poverty alleviation and programmes to combat and adapt to climate change.
  29. Declare Canada a nuclear free zone.
  30. Reform WTO, IMF and the World Bank, placing these under the authority of the UN General Assembly and shift the direction of international trade away from free trade to fair trade.
  31. Scrap the SPP (Security and Prosperity Partnership).

And they call us a one-issue party!

We can strike the top item off of the list of uniquely GPC policies but there’s plenty more meat on that bone. There is a wide gulf between Green Party policies and Liberal policies despite attempts by opposition parties to portray us as peas in a pod. We need to be ready to define the differences and convince voters that there is a lot more to the GPC than one purloined policy.

The so-called Red-Green deal applies to one riding only. It indicates a high level of mutual respect between the two party leaders. Neither Red-Green nor Dion’s carbon tax change the fact that there is myriad of issues on which GPC and the LPC are diametrically opposed. Dion is not pulling any punches when he woos would-be Green voters. Here’s a quote from the March 17th by-elections.

In a news conference, Dion acknowledged the Green party’s gains in Vancouver Quadra.

“It took a lot of our vote. And to me it’s a very welcome challenge. It’s for us to show that the best way to be green at the next general election will be to vote red.”

(Source CBC)

The carbon tax is how he’s attempting to show that. A cynical type might think Dion is merely fishing for GPC votes with his new conversion. Liberal commitment and follow-through are not exactly their strong points, so it will be up to environmentally conscious and concerned voters to determine if Dion’s embrace of a carbon tax is sincere or merely a vote grab aimed at getting half of the GPC’s 10% support. Thankfully, now that the Liberals have adopted this policy, we can count on the Conservatives and NDP to remind voters of Dion’s flip-flop and those “13 years of Liberal inaction” we’re always hearing about. Even if Dion can successfully sell the idea of a carbon tax, he still needs to convince voters that he’ll “get it done.”

While the old-liners are busily tossing mud at one another, we can remind voters, when necessary, that a carbon tax has been central to GPC policy for years (no flip-flopping) and that it is just one good Green policy among many.

Some of our unique positions will resonate better than others and some may appeal strongly to specific regions. Here in Haldimand-Norfolk, for example, we have the Nanticoke generating station. The idea of building a new nuclear plant to replace the coal-fired station is being actively pursued by local councils and Bruce Power. Our unique stand on nuclear power will win votes in this riding.

In certain ridings, our marijuana policy may be the clincher. In manufacturing regions, our position on the SPP, NAFTA and our push for green collar job creation may be the best selling points.

If Dion is able to sell his new policy to voters, he’ll have pre-sold one Green Party policy. We can thank him for that and proceed to sell the other ones ourselves.

This article was also posted to my Green Party blog.

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7 Responses

  1. Just to clarify, I didn’t mean to come across as the arrogant Liberal, that just assumes Dion can “siphon” off Green support. I think you would agree, that when you see 8-10% support nationally for the Greens, this figure is greater than the hardcore supporter. What I mean by that, I suspect a good percentage of current support isn’t necessarily aware of the extensive list of policies you posted here, one of their primary considerations is entirely related to the environment. The general public, rightly or wrongly, sees the Green Party and the environment in tandem, that is the signature identification, and that is why I think the Liberals have the potential to appeal to those soft supporters. I don’t think anyone would dispute the fact that the current surge in Green support is related to the surge in public consciousness on the environment. If Dion is able to effectively appeal on the environment, then the challenge for the Greens will be to articulate the rest of their platform. Now withstanding any appeal from the totality, if I’m a Liberal, and I’m looking to expand my base, I start with gazing at Green supporters. Yes, they are fundamental different, but when you eliminate the gulf on the signature issue, you do have some potential.

    Everyone, and every party, has to target their appeal, and all I’m saying is the Liberals should target people who currently say they will vote Green. What becomes of that is another matter, but faced with the prospects of Harper, May’s own comments on vote splitting, I think you could present a powerful argument, particularly if you are supported a main tenet for the Greens. It’s a strategy, and one I think you could see as necessary, if the Liberals are to form the government.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Steve.

    Arrogant? I would never think such a thing. In fact, in convincing people to vote Green, one argument I use is that when the old parties see our support level, they’ll adopt Green policies ion an attempt to win those votes. This is particularly true in the era of a relatively strong BQ and a good possibility that we’ll have minority governments well into the future.

    The idea that GPC pre-election poll support is soft and will slip away on election day was challenged in the most recent Ontario election. We got almost exactly the same percentage at the ballot box as we were getting in the opinion polls.

    Elizabeth has stated the the best outcome we can hope for is a Liberal minority with a smattering of Greens to keep them honest. I agree. I think there may be some strategic votes moving from the GPC to the LPC in a few tight races. I also know that the GPC is attracting not only a lot of popular support but also a lot of high caliber candidates.

    In the next election, I’d like to see the Greens identify the handful of ridings where we have a chance of winning and go all out in those ridings. With the Red-Green deal, Central Nova is one such riding. I think my own Haldimand-Norfolk is another. Diane Finley is unelectable and the NDP can’t even find a candidate (Last time, they imported one from Hamilton). We’ve got an extremely strong GPC candidate here. So do you in Dr. Hoskins, I’ll grant.

  3. “The idea that GPC pre-election poll support is soft and will slip away on election day was challenged in the most recent Ontario election. We got almost exactly the same percentage at the ballot box as we were getting in the opinion polls.”

    I’ve cited that myself, when people claim the Green polling numbers aren’t real, Ontario proved that the vote will manifest at the polls. What I meant by soft, is that there is a segment of that vote that the Liberals could appeal too, if they look progressive on the environment. There could be a situation where we fight for the same constituent, and what I meant by “arrogance”, I don’t just assume we could win them, just that we are part of that conversation, in a more substantive way than prior.

  4. I don’t think we Greens need to worry about the LPC too much. Whatever numbers you draw away from us, we’ll draw that many from the NDP. 😉

    I agree that this latest move by Dion gets back to playing his strong suit and could win a few pragmatic, small-g greens. One thing you may not be considering is that part the GPC’s popularity is among people who don’t usually vote. Some voters who would like to vote for “none of the above” are drawn to the GPC as a protest party. They’ll be a tough bunch to win to an old, established party like the Lib’s.

    Strategic voters trying to prevent a Con win could be a factor. In some tight races, this might be effective. I’m not sure how many ridings are so close that a 5% Green-to-Liberal move will make the difference.

  5. “One thing you may not be considering is that part the GPC’s popularity is among people who don’t usually vote. ”

    Good point. Jim, I put up a post, related to this subject, just to flesh out my thoughts. If you’re interested:

    http://farnwide.blogspot.com/2008/05/appealing-to-greens.html

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