Thursday, November 08, 2007

Now We're Talking

There has been a good and honest debate, on whether or not the Liberals need to deliver policy now, or wait until an election campaign. I've always sided on the policy now side, particularly because of Dion's predicament, the need to define himself and the party. Dion is set to deliver a major speech tomorrow, highlighting a direction which puts flesh to the Liberal bone:
Stephane Dion is poised to unveil a central plank in the Liberal election platform — a "bold" plan to reduce poverty in Canada.

An insider close to Dion said the Liberal leader will set ``aggressive but realistic" multi-year targets for reducing poverty in general and child poverty in particular.

He will also outline the policy tools a Liberal government would use – bolstering existing income support programs and new investments in things like child care and education – to meet those targets.

According to the insider, Dion will argue that there is a moral imperative to address the issue in Canada where almost one million children and one in three single mothers live in poverty even as the federal government racks up massive annual surpluses.

The plan has been fully costed but the price tag will not be revealed until the entire platform is released during the next election campaign.

This is an issue on which the Liberals can plant the flag, distance themselves from the past regime, contrast themselves with the Conservatives and appeal to the soft "left". The long term approach speaks to the idea of a Liberal vision, which is desperately needed, as well as a fundamental statement on what kind of society we want moving forward.

Politically, it could be quite shrewd to make this issue a centerpiece. One, poverty is really an issue that doesn't register on the Conservative radar, which presents an opportunity to fill the vacuum. Two, this is an issue that the NDP continually addresses, so Dion inserting the Liberals into that conversation might appeal to some on the left, or at least make the Liberals more palatable, relative to the Chretien/Martin era. Thumbs up!

28 comments:

Dame said...

Finally !! Ihope it is just the first part..

Very important to define the liberal platform with the strongest ways...

Ah by the way Harper just said nobody wants an election except the "sablerattling opposition" I must laugh out laud...
on the defensive already....???

marta

Steve V said...

That was a pretty funny quote :)

Mushroom said...

This was something I have called for in a blogpost earlier in the year http://mushroomcloudhassmoke.blogspot.com/2007/05/gst-proposal-for-grits-towards-social.html.

A good example for Dion to promise would be the establishment of a Department of Social Inclusion established in Ireland. The link is here
http://www.socialinclusion.ie/poverty.html#whatare

MarkCh said...

The problem is, if there is money for any two of keeping the GST cut, cutting income taxes, and embarking on a massive "anti-poverty" program, then the Cons can cut income taxes too. And if there is money for only one, then Dion has a tough choice to make.

northwestern_lad said...

This sounds a lot like a rehashing of the Liberals early 90's policy on ending child poverty by 2000.... How did that one turn out???

Any announcement like this coming from the Liberal Party needs to be taken with a large grain of salt.

Steve V said...

mark

Most of the independent analysis has said that Flaherty's surplus projections to 2011 are understated, and in fact we will see the same increases moving forward. That fact leaves room for "big ideas", and besides no one seems to mention that government spending actually increased 8% last year under this government. The article said that the hard numbers might wait until the platform, but I don't see Dion having to raise taxes to fund some new initiatives, if we are to believe the economic forecasts. Besides, there is a moral obligation to acknowledge the growing problem isn't there?

mushroom

Your post link doesn't work for me, the Ireland link is interesting. Apparently, Dion will model his plan after Blair's.

Mushroom said...

Markch,

The first steps do not have to cost much, as long as benchmarks used to define social inclusion are visible.

It may include increasing the personal tax exemption to $15,000 to encourage the non-working poor to join the workforce.

There is also the possibility of providing housing vouchers so single parent families can own their own home instead of living in subsidized housing.

To have a go at Harper, you can also expand the distribution of prescription heroin so drug addicts can maintain working lives instead of overcoming drug dependency.

These small steps may help distinguish between what the Grits represent in light of the Cons, who are known to be weak in social policy.

Steve V said...

"Any announcement like this coming from the Liberal Party needs to be taken with a large grain of salt."

Cam, why is Dion beholden to past Liberal failures, as though he was responsible? I voted NDP last election, so I do sympathize with the past criticisms. There is one thing about the past, it's over, I prefer to look forward.

One thing I see is a tension between the NDP rhetoric and the Cons. The Cons keep telling us that Dion has moved the Liberals to the left, their supporters call us socialists, but then you have the NDP saying same old, same old. Very confusing

Koby said...

"This sounds a lot like a rehashing of the Liberals early 90's policy on ending child poverty by 2000.... How did that one turn out???"

Two things: One, not that a Conservative supporter would ever consider context or nuance, Canada's fiscal state was hardly conducive to largely an embarking on such an endeavor in 1993. Two, two I think Dion is more committed to fighting child poverty than, for example, Paul Martin.

All that being said, while I am glad the Liberals are moving ahead with something, I am weary as to how much of a political impact this is going to make. The Liberals seem not to realize that the public has the ability to talk about only a narrow band of policies with any degree of sophistication and I am afraid child poverty is way beyond the ability of most columnists to talk about yet alone the public. Good policy or not, the public will not be interested in what it can not understand.

The NDP’s push to abolish the senate is kind of idea the public can get its head around and will talk about. It is also the very kind of cut and dry issues the Liberals need to bring to the table politically. SSM, marijuana legalization, whether to join the US in Iraq, leave Afghanistan or not, whether to abolish the senate, euthanasia, whether to mandate more vacation time, whether to abolish the monarchy, whether to ban hand guns, whether to cut the GST. These are the kind of issues virtually everyone can offer an opinion on. Only a small fraction of the public is in any position to pass judgment on whether doing x will reduce child poverty or whether the Liberals carbon trading plan will help reduce emissions.

The Liberals need to revaluate what is and is not a big issue politically speaking. SSM was big issue during the last election campaign in terms of what being talked about in all candidates debates, in the blogsephere and in the media. Health care was not. Yet health care is generally regarded as the issue in Canada. The Liberals and Dion in particular need to realize that it does not matter if an issue is small potatoes, if it draws a lot of press, it is a big issue.

Anonymous said...

Oh come on guys, don't you know that retail politics rules the day? Forget laying down intelligent, detailed policies! Canadians are on a special diet these days - they only eat bullshit - and Harper and Layton are already serving them very well, thank you very much.

Do we have a moral obligation to do something about poverty? I dunno, perhaps. That's for philosophers to figure out. But I do know that retail politics will rule the day. That's why it will be so easy for the NDP to play the cynic card on this one. "Same old liberals, same old policies." Very simple, the message sticks, its BS and it works. Everyone will be repeating it a few days from now, mark my words.

If liberals really want to form government, they need to start spreading thoughtless BS - something like cutting the GST or abolishing the Senate.

Overly simplistic policies rule the day. Harper and Layton have figured out something that Bush was on to a long time ago - the people are fucking retarded. Feed them simplistic, divisive BS and you're bound for glory.

northwestern_lad said...

Steve.... Dion does wear that record because he was there, in cabinet, when this stuff was happening. Sorry, but you can't take credit for the good things your party did in the past while you were there but then say you had nothing to do with the bad. Paul Martin tried that last time and it didn't turn out too well.

Plus, some of his current actions build on this. Read my blog for today Steve (http://cameronholmstrom.blogspot.com/2007/11/is-recycling-policy-good-for.html)
I go into that a bit.

northwestern_lad said...

koby... I made the comment about 1989 because it was something that the Liberals ran on. The Liberals knew that the finances were not great in 1993, yet they still ran on it. What does that say about them???

As for the "Conservative supporter" comment, that's as low a blow as you can give to this very proud New Democrat supporter. I have come to expect better than that from you koby.

Mushroom said...

Koby,

I will be going to Dion's speech tomorrow. It will be given in the second poorest riding in Ontario. Believe me it is a swing riding between the Dippers and Grits provincially and people there are desperate. It will get traction.

"Good policy or not, the public will not be interested in what it can not understand."

How can you not understand poverty? It is visible and present everywhere. School children having to walk miles to school because they cannot afford bus tickets. Not having winter boots as the weather gets colder etc. I see it everyday.

Steve V said...

koby

You make fair points, and this issue could get lost, because for some reason it isn't very sexy with the media. That said, embracing this issue is a defining point for Dion, something which he needs to distinguish itself, so it might have an impact in terms of perception.

anon

"But I do know that retail politics will rule the day."

No doubt they do. Is this a temporary or the standard? I'm not sure, but I do know that cynicism is at an all time high, which might translate to an underlying current for something different.

cam

For all his faults, you can't say Dion isn't sincere (see Layton's past quotes on Dion prior to his status as rival). I'm prepared to take the commitment at face value, and while you can remain suspicious, can you not at least acknowledge the initiative? I'll read your post. BTW, when people put links in the comments, it would be easier if it was in a href... format :) I'm lazy like that.

Anonymous said...

The problem with this anti poverty crusade AGAIN by the Liberals (see Redbooks 1,2 and 3) is that most of it is provincial and even municipal jurisdiction.

Welfare -provincial
Daycare-provincial and municipal, subsidized housing - provincial and municipal, skills training and education -provincial; addictions treatments -provincial and municipal, etc.etc.

Also, Dion would be treading on Jack Layton's turf - he thinks the whole country looks like Toronto and almost all of Jack's "issues" are provincial and municipal.

Can't Dion focus on something that IS federal jurisdiction or does he want to constantly micro manage the premiers.?

Mushroom said...

Anon 11:24

What is wrong with setting benchmarks?

Is the Guaranteed Annual Income a provincial/municipal jurisdiction?

If what you say is true, then we might as well forget about a Robert F. Kennedy style war on poverty in Canada.

Koby said...

>>>>> “How can you not understand poverty?”

Poverty, global warming, health care are things people readily understand and have opinions about. However it is one thing have opinions about, for example, global warming it is quite another have an informed opinions about a particular carbon trading program.

>>>>> koby... I made the comment about 1989 because it was something that the Liberals ran on. The Liberals knew that the finances were not great in 1993, yet they still ran on it. What does that say about them???


They acted in bad faith in promising that they can not deliver. That is quite difference then not delivering on a promise though. As the speech act theorists, rightly pointed out, a promise is not a promise if it can not be fulfilled. One can not promise the moon in other words.

>>>>>> “As for the "Conservative supporter" comment, that's as low a blow as you can give to this very proud New Democrat supporter. I have come to expect better than that from you koby.”

Hasty comment. My bad. It was a knee jerk reaction on my park and should have put more time into writing it.

>>>> Oh come on guys, don't you know that retail politics rules the day? Forget laying down intelligent, detailed policies! Canadians are on a special diet these days - they only eat bullshit - and Harper and Layton are already serving them very well, thank you very much.

Just because something is straight forward and easy to understand does not make it bad policy. Promising universal health care to Canadians was both readily understandable, good politics and damn good policy.

The opposite holds true as well. Many positions the Liberals hold to now are just vacuous facades with the veneer of complexity.

As for Layton proposing that the senate be abolished, I am glad in a way that he has grown some. This has been a NDP policy right from the start and yet the NDP allowed the Conservatives and before them the Reform party to dominant the issue for years. When your issue comes up, especially if you are lacking for media attention the way the NDP are, you better step up to the plate.

All in all, it would just plain silly for the Liberals to only trot out policy the public has the ability to understand. That said, the Liberals are fooling themselves if they think they can win the next election without proposing at least some of these policies. For Christ sakes can you think of two policies that have garnered the Liberals more attention and praise then the SSM and their decision to stay out of Iraq? These are the bread and butter of campaigns and a life line for parties behind in the polls.

Susan said...

Maybe Dion could supplement this very positive policy on poverty with an attention grabber like: the cons in favour of the death penalty. Could be a huge issue: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/subscriber/columnists/top3/story/4072271p-4673770c.html

burlivespipe said...

Same old, same old tired bullshit mutters from the NdPer in the corner. Yadayadayada you promised it way back when... Sure, when you're a party that doesn't have to deliver anything, guess you've got all the answers. But you are right in one way, we've got to start trumpeting the successes of our near 13 years in gov't -- beating back the deficit which allows for enacting some progressive policies, keeping Canada out of Iraq, promoting international trade to new levels etc.
But instead of harping on Liberals 24/7 for what King and Chretien left to do, how about spending a smidge of your attention too at your new boosum buddy Harper? Here, I'll get you started -
'Macdonald also promised 'clean government' and we know how that worked, right?'

northwestern_lad said...

Koby... thanks for the retraction on the "Conservative" comment

I do hate to be argumentative, but if you promise something, regardless of your ability to keep it, you promised it. How many poorer people were counting on that promise to change their lives??? How many got let down??? Lets not get bogged down in symantics, they never should have made the promise if they couldn't have kept it. If they did that knowingly, then why did they??? The desperation of getting back into power??? Just guessing. If that was the case then, I would argue given the Liberals current state, they would be all the more desperate than that time. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Susan >>> Maybe Dion could supplement this very positive policy on poverty with an attention grabber like: the cons in favour of the death penalty

that won't work. Majority of canadians are tired of the revolving door justice system we've built.
how about we say he'll put soldiers guns on the streets?
and take away our gangs?

MarkCh said...

Does anyone know of a report which breaks down the 785,000 (after tax, which is all that matters) poor children by category? Eg, % aboriginal, % single parent family, % rural, % recent immigrant, etc? Campaign 2000's report was very vague. Also LICO by province - is BC's high child poverty rate actually driven by high Vancouver house prices? If you want to be serious about policy, you need to know this stuff.

Koby said...

"that won't work. Majority of canadians are tired of the revolving door justice system we've built.
how about we say he'll put soldiers guns on the streets?
and take away our gangs?"

Two things: Canada inprisons more people per cap basis than any other Western country other than the US. It hands out longer sentences than any other Western country, save the US. If you are suggesting that Canada is "soft" on crime than you are just plain ignorant. Second Canada is not going to hell in a hand basket no matter what you see on the CTV nightly news. The crime rate, particularly violent crime in Canada has plummeted since 1993. The murder rate reached a 36 year low in 2004.

So read some more. Stop watching CTV and ask yourself if 24% of the people behind bars in the world are in US jails why does the US have a gang problems that blow Canada's out of the water?

Koby said...

Sadly, Dion's "bold" proposal got as much press as I thought it would. No press == no much impact.

The Mulroney annoucment stole all the headlines and guess that is what it was designed to do.

Steve V said...

koby

It didn't get huge coverage, but I think it is more than just the one day story. It gives Dion context moving forward, it gives the grassroots some red meat, it provides the contrast.

Koby said...

It got some good press from the Globe and the Star, but virtually nothing, no suprise there from the fraser institute, err sorry, Canwest global.

It certainly got a lot less attention than the abolish the senate thing. By the way, why are the Liberals making major policy annoucments on a Friday afternoon????

As for the substance of what was released there was not much new other than setting targets themselves.

Steve V said...

" By the way, why are the Liberals making major policy annoucments on a Friday afternoon????"

That question was raised on Newman's pundit panel. That's news dump time, not make news :)

Mushroom said...

Koby,

It was major news in the Red Liberal State of Toronto.