The fact the Conservatives immediately jumped all over Dion's comments on the GST, speaks to the widely held notion that any proposal, that involves raising a tax, is political suicide. The Conservatives saw an opening, approaching taxes as they always do, as a matter of good retail politics. The posture assumes that you win the tax debate on a superficial level, paint yourself as putting money into people's pockets, your opponent as a thief. The detail is irrelevant, because the public is generally disinterested, optics rule.
However, what we have seen in the aftermath of the Conservative's tax announcements might suggest an opportunity, that first blush dismisses. Two points today that underscore that sentiment. First, talk that the Conservatives own polling shows no real bounce from the GST cut, in fact the reaction is mostly bland. The second point, the entire media class, fed by the economists consensus, has panned the GST cut, with a defacto endorsement of Dion's plan. When you have a Sun Media column ripping the GST cut, it speaks volumes to an almost universal opinion.
I think Dion is actually fairly well positioned to challenge the government, meet the attack ads head on and try to engage people into a honest debate. It has to be done forcefully, it has to be done clearly, but the GST issue isn't necessarily a losing one. When question period resumes, what if Dion were to directly mention the attack ads? Speakers love to hold a piece of paper from an editorial that shows support for a position. Dion could rise, address the attack, then pickup a stack of editorials, from every major media outlet, coupled with report after report that details why the Liberal approach is sound. Frame the debate as substance over flash, acknowledge the political risks, but argue that principle trumps a sales pitch. The retorts from the government are obvious, but the jewel in this whole scenario, the Conservatives now have no backing with the media, which means there is a sympathy for the Liberal point of view. Couple the direct confrontation with the government, with a simultaneous plea to the media too be heard, and you stand a fighting chance.
The Conservatives think they have the Liberals on the defensive when it comes to taxes. I would argue the Liberal reaction will dictate whether that sentiment is accurate, because when you seperate the wheat from the chaff, the Liberals are right on the issue, the Conservatives irresponsible for not listening to the expert opinion. Dion doens't want to raise your taxes, it is up to the Liberals to demonstrate the misinformation, in a way that forces a real engagement. A real discussion, with substance- stranger things have happened.