Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Looking North of the border again, it looks like Dion has finally become a "leader" on something. Appropriately enough, it's an environmental issue.

He's backing a carbon tax.

He was originally against carbon taxes, but changed his mind. Fine: leaders do that. Well, good leaders, anyway; we've seen what happens when a leader doesn't change his mind, and it's gruesome. He also hasn't pushed a complete policy prescription, but more of a trial balloon.

That isn't the fun part. The fun part is the reactions, which are showing how it's actually pretty good politics.

(Whatzisname argues otherwise. Whatzisname is wrong. He does that. Even when he's not playing the paid flack for oil companies--and I'm not saying he is here--he's built his political career on running AGAINST novelty and innovation. Right or wrong, that's kind of his thing.)

The Conservatives are against it, of course, but they're in a bit of a tight spot. Sure, they can castigate it as "yet another tax", but Dion is pledging income tax cuts in order to turn the carbon "tax" into a carbon "shift". But people aren't necessarily unwilling to pay for things they believe in; if that weren't true, Canada wouldn't have all those vaunted social programs in the first place. And yet it's a policy that the Cons simply can't co-opt; their Climate Change-denying, tax-hating base would go absolutely bananas. They HAVE to be against it, whether it's popular or not.

Plus, they've got other problems right now, as their weak front bench ends up even weaker.

The NDP are against it too, but that's not helping them much either. It's pushed the most famous environmentalist in Canada (maybe even the world, after Al Gore), David Suzuki, squarely into the Liberal camp. And while conservatives might ignore Suzuki as some sort of commie symp, he still has a big and loyal following among Canadian small "l" liberals and progressives. That's a big issue. But they can't go against it either; they're running against the Liberals, not the Tories, and know that their union base is going to be against this.

As for the Greens, they're already foursquare behind it. They have to be. It's a signature issue of theirs, and they face irrelevance if they oppose it.

(They might anyway; if Liberal/Green/NDP splits threaten the carbon tax happening, some kind of "red shift" is quite likely.)

Besides, they're friendly with the Liberals; Elizabeth May is clearly hoping for a cabinet position with the Libs if she gets into Parliament and they get into Government, and it's a safe bet.

The best part is the media's reaction, though, both "old" and "new". A lot of Dion critics are caught up short by this, and are reduced to nonsense about whether or not it's politically saleable. They assume it isn't, but polls are suggesting that Canadians are open to the idea.

So now, all of a sudden, things have changed. Dion's in the driver's seat: his policy will be the talk of the country throughout the entire summer. Any announcement on specific aspects of the policy will be front-page news, ensuring that any time Dion wants to get onto the front pages, he just needs to mention the words "carbon tax" and they'll light up. Harper is reduced to reacting, while his drifting, aimless government looks all the worse in comparison. And Dion's Quebec opponents are in trouble as well; attacks on him for his lack of nationalism will be old news, wheres the carbon tax--which is VERY popular in Quebec--will be the new hotness.

And if an election comes in the fall? Well, now all of a sudden we know what it's going to be an election on.

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