Friday, March 16, 2007

We Have A Pulse

For the first time since Dion was elected leader, we are starting to get some sense of cohesion and direction. Fair to absolve much of the initial confusion as simply a function of newness, but that reality has clearly come at a cost. Liberals needed a week, that in some ways suggests a turning point.

I have read some disagreement on the merits of delivering policy prior to an election. I think it important to be pragmatic, and not fall back on the conventional wisdom of holding your cards for maximum input. Objectively, Dion was in some serious trouble, and the immediate concerns should outweigh the more strategic approach. In other words, Dion desperately needed to put his stamp on a few issues, in a substantive way. An election is not a certainty, it is important to deal with the known, and we already know the attack lines.

Dion's crime proposals received generally favorable coverage. Apart from the actual policy, it allowed for something else to digest besides broken english and weak leadership, which had almost become obsessive. Banter between Harper and Dion puts the focus on the issue, and I would argue Dion garnered some credibility that was lacking.

Today's announcement illustrated that the Liberal strategists are thinking. Overall, today's environmental plan was ambitious, aggressive and allows for some contrast with the looming Conservative legislation. Pure speculation, but I think this announcement was predicated on some knowledge of what exactly the Tories will be proposing. Delivering the Liberal position first, prior to the budget, is sound in my view, because now we have a situation where we can do more than criticize. The Conservative plan will be received, as it relates to the Liberal plan, which allows us to possibly steal any momentum. Harper will have a harder time with intensity targets, when there is another plan for environmentalists to rally around. In addition, and I think this a stroke of genius, the Liberal plan relies on the private sector to foot the bill, while the Conservatives so far have used taxpayer money. Big government vs the market, interesting where both parties may fall.

Within the context of the policy initiatives, Liberals have the added bonus of confirmation that poll slippage has ended, which helps generate a new news cycle. The stabilizing landscape allows for some optimism, while simultaneously blunting the perceived Harper momentum. A lot of people debate the importance of polls, but I think they shape the media mindset, which trickles through our newscasts. The level at which people pay attention is a valid debate, but most people do pick up things here and there, which is why constant the tone of coverage has a general effect.

It's only one week, but this week was the first time that it appeared someone was minding the store, there was the appearance of thoughtful strategy, with the requisite meat on bones.


MississaugaPeter said...

I agree, it has been a far better week for the Federal Liberals.

What is missing are Liberal MPs at each of Harper's announcements.

For example, at the B.C. environment announcement this week, Liberal MPs or critics should have been there to steal some of the free spotlights Harper got. Even if to say it was a good idea.

At the Alberta environment announcement last week, the media made no mention of any Liberal MPs or critics in attendance.

At the Liberal leadership convention, all of us saw a few Conservative MPs/hacks getting the attention of the MSM.

knb said...

It's only one week, but this week was the first time that it appeared someone was minding the store, there was the appearance of thoughtful strategy, with the requisite meat on bones.

I said this on another blog, but I'm not sure it could have been done sooner. I'm glad to see thoughtful strategy emerging.

I agree that there was a lack of cohesion initially, which was to be expected and Harper and gang took full advantage. Hopefully, we'll begin to turn this around.

BTW, The Pembina Institute had this to say:

"This is the strongest proposal for regulating industrial greenhouse gas pollution made by any political party in Canada. It sets a new standard against which the Harper government's soon-to-be-announced regulatory framework must be judged," said Matthew Bramley, Director of the Pembina Institute's climate change program.

Sheeple said...

Announcing hard caps today gives people a chance to compare the Harper plan with the Dion plan. It was a brilliant strategic move by Dion.

Sheeple said...


Where'd you get that Pembina quote from?

Steve V said...


With this plan out there, Harper will be measured in comparison. If there was no Liberal plan, some environmentalists would be more inclined to give some faint praise. I said it already, but I think the Liberals have knowledge of the Tory initiatives and this is a calculated move.

knb said...

Here you go Sheeple.

knb said...

It may be a calculated move Steve, but I'd only say that in terms of timing, not platform. It seems to me in looking at it, that they have pooled ideas, as Dion said they would and have come up with something solid.

Damn media, slagging it of course. Using con phrases like, "it's a carbon tax". It's not of course, but Duffy just can't help himself.

Jason Kenney looked downright angry on that show tonight and McGuinty handled it beautifully, just as Goodale did last night. This is where I see change. Reasoned responses, pointing out the lies the Con's tell. That coupled with solid plans...great move!

Steve V said...

CBC National had both May and Layton offering some praise- although Jack called it a "babystep", which is interesting considering the NDP have advocated exactly what Dion has proposed. All in all, from what I've seen, the coverage has been good.

BTW, I say Kenney today- he looked angry, but he also looked in bad need of a shower and shave :)

knb said...

in bad need of a shower and shave :)

LOL, I noticed that too. It made him look more menacing though, :).

I'll have to watch the National later. Jack's going to look stupid if he claims dib's on this. If Pembina is saying it's the strongest proposal of any Party, not Government, that would include the NDP. I'm certain they have not ignored his plans. He has his credibility on this file, to dis Dion will be suicide, especially if he continues to support the CPC.

Shannon said...

The Pembina Institute is very complimentary of the Dion carbon tax scheme - that is because The Pembina Institute WROTE IT!

Just like the Attorney General for Ontarion was very complimentary of Dion's crime package - The AG of Ontarion WROTE IT

Now according to garth Turner HE is writing the Liberal budget/tax proposals.

Therefore garth will really really support it because, he will have written it.

Great strategy.

Steve V said...

God forbid Dion's should consult with the experts, when devising a strategy. Next thing you know, Dion will be speaking with nurses about the health care system. What a fool.

knb said...

Meanwhile, the Conservatives just keep re-writing Liberal plans.

Shannon, get a grip.

Steve, I meant to say, good title for this post.

ottlib said...

I am one of those folks that believe the Liberals should keep their powder dry until the election.

The two biggest reasons are not many people will be paying attention because they are the Opposition and they give plenty of time to the Conservatives to come up with attack lines against the policy.

However, I also believe that the Liberals should be hammering away at the environment theme to keep it in the minds of Canadians and to make it one of the central issues of the election. The announcement today does that and it does it by putting something positive out there giving the Liberals an opportunity to change from just attacking the Conservatives on their lack of environmental action.

So on balance I happy with today's announcement but I hope that they have a follow-up to it planned for later because it will probably be partially negated by the Conservatives by the time the election rolls around.

Steve V said...

"I am one of those folks that believe the Liberals should keep their powder dry until the election."

I'm not advocating a complete platform release, but the two policy positions this week were well timed. Sometimes you need to change the conversation, in my mind this was clearly one those occasions.

Anonymous said...


I think you and KNB, and Sheeple are dead on. It was critical that the LPC announced something before the CPC did. Especially since the LPC had decided not to play ball.

That being said, I have no idea about the politics of timing. I can't see the value in waiting, unless the LPC is afraid of the CPC stealing ideas.

In this case, Harper won't steal these ideas. A carbon tax for the big "polluters" that make profit??

What is that? A tax on captialism? For that matter, why is Imperial Oil a polluter, they aren't burning the stuff, they are supplying the stuff. How about Chrysler, they don't drive the cars, they just supply them. I think you get my point. A reasonable position can be built from this that is strictly a tax the rich proposition, indepedent of carbon realism.

Secondly, Baird made it crystal clear that the CPC has NO intention of playing the international carbon credit game as they think it is a massive swindle.

So, I guess to summarize, I think that Dion had to make a substantive announcement to gain some footing, and he did. He won't steal any CPC votes, but he may take some from the NDP and Greens.

At least that's what I saw.


Kim Feraday said...

I think it's great that the Liberals have finally put some substance to the three pillars.

I don't quite get your comment that "this a stroke of genius, the Liberal plan relies on the private sector to foot the bill, while the Conservatives so far have used taxpayer money." Last time I checked corporations pay tax as well. The Green Investment Account really is a tax -- even if it's a "temporary" one. It may be an effective way to provide some price stability while Canadian companies figure out what market mechanism they're going to use and to accomodate in the excess allocations that look to be built into the plan. But shouldn't be a
long term solution -- that is should disappear after 2012.

Also, there had better be a consumer version of this or we're leaving 40% or so of emissions on the table. Hopefully this is mostly in the form of consumption and utilization taxes and fees(on gas use of roads for example) rather than in the form of income tax increases.

Steve V said...

There will be a consumer angle, that just seems like common sense if you are serious.

Yes corporations pay taxes, but they are also the beneficary of taxpayer dollars (i.e. the oil and gas subsidies), not to mention all the creative accounting that the commoner doesn't have access to, not to mention all the taxbreak incentives to locate and such.