Monday, May 19, 2008

The Dion Coalition

One thing to keep in mind, as people weigh in on Dion's yet to be released tax shift plan, is the idea of a building a winning coalition. People point to a poll that shows 61% support a carbon tax, the numbers are higher for a carrot and stick approach, all kinds of empirical data to suggest a good portion of Canadians are ready to address the issue, in a serious manner. Others will say, it's easy to answer YES on a poll question, quite a different matter, when the theoretical actually impacts the wallet. That sentiment may well be correct, but the core calculation for Dion, can his plan appeal to a small percentage of people outside of the Liberal base. When you breakdown the numbers, Dion's task is far less daunting, he really only needs to sway a small group of the electorate to win an election.

You start by immediately knocking off the base Conservative support. For argument's sake, that number is probably around 30% nationally, plus another 5% that could lean Conservative, probably will in a "tax grab" scenario. That leaves a solid 65% of the electorate available to Dion, which represents the low end of the potential pool. We can also remove the Bloc voter, although completely dismissing that entire subset isn't necessarily the case, those voters are much "greener" in general, Dion may actually have some appeal. To be realistic though, we will take another 9% of the national vote off the table, Bloc voters are unmoved. Dion starts with 56% of the population that will consider his proposals.

What is the core NDP number? I would argue 10% seems a fair number, the rest could be described as soft support, possible to shake lose. Dion is down to a pool of 46%. The wild card is the Green support, and I would argue, this group represents the best opportunity to expand the Dion coalition. Currently, the Greens sit at 9% nationally. Dion endorsing, what amounts to the key plank for the Green Party, the environment clearly the main draw at this point, outside of the activist base, is a powerful lure. Let's just say Dion could appeal to half of those voters, which is entirely possible, given the lack of history, given the source of the current rise in support. Dion sits at 41%, and I believe these calculations have been conservative throughout.

Dion only needs to appeal to 35% of the electorate to win a minority, high 30`s, touching 40% to win a majority. The Liberals start with 30% as their core support, all Dion needs to do is convince another 5-10% of the electorate to get behind his proposals and he could form the next government. When you frame the argument within this lens, bold becomes possible, risky becomes reasonable.

If you do a regional breakdown of support, the opportunities are that much more pronounced. If you go further and accept the rural vs urban argument, you see again how that works to the Liberals traditional strengths, how the supposed erosion occurs where there was never any opportunity in the first place.

I think it`s important to keep focused moving forward, don`t get distracted by all the noise, all the doom and gloom commentary, because it really is all about building the Dion coalition, a coalition of voters that only needs to peck away at the soft perimeter of other support to get over the hump. In the end, it all boils down to a pretty simple argument, Dion is really only interested in a fraction of the electorate, he doesn`t have to convince the entire nation, he doesn`t even need anywhere near majority support, he only needs to convince a small percentage outside of his base to win the day.


Scott Tribe said...

Ah..but according to the Conservative supporters commenters Steve.. we Liberals are only supported by immigrants in Toronto.. so we're DOOOOMMMMEEEEEDDDD.

Seriously, I half wonder if these folks really aren't trolling, but really believe that.

RuralSandi said...

Hmmm....the environment is hugely important to Quebecers - I wonder if it will help Dion there, especially after what Suzuki said about the NDP.

The CPC are working so hard to bash Dion on this - I think it indicates they are worried.

janfromthebruce said...

So I am going to rain on your parade of winning coalition and liberal track record - Is this just a liberal red book retread? Come on - liberals are reknown for making promises and never following through, and particularly with majority govt?

A few short months ago, Dion said no to taxing carbon, and liberals trashed Kyoto by voting with Harper.

Please square that beg.

JimBobby said...

Whooee! You dang Liberals is shameless. First, you steal our policy and now, yer settin' your sights on half of our supporters.

Looks the flip-flop on carbon taxes is gonna be the oppo's big stick. Dion's gonna hafta deflect with a good reason why he changed his mind on carbon taxes. Of course, Harpoon changed his mind on so-called greenhouse gases -- or at least he sez he did.

Dion ain't divulged much detail yet. If he really wants to mix things up, he'll include a cap-and-trade system along with the tax shift. The two can work simultaneously, even catalytically. That'd knock the wind outta the Dippers' sails. Dion's already proven he's willing to steal good policy.


ottlib said...

Steve, I am certain that you have probably already thought of this but the Conservatives are in a similar position to the Liberals.

Both have a rather solid core so both only have to convince between 5-10% of the electorate to win an election and possibly a majority.

As well, the Conservatives have already telegraphed who they will be wooing, Quebec nationalists. I am certain once the election begins we will see the Conservatives really go hard at these voters. In other words Mr. Harper wants to recreate the Mulroney coalition. Of course we all know how that turned out the last time but I do not believe Stephen Harper really cares.

It is going to be interesting to see which one of these men actually succeeds in building their coalitions.

janfromthebruce said...

Which as Jim Bob says is exactly what the NDP position is, cap and trade.
Of course, the libs can steal all they want, of course, does it matter? Liberals will run anything to win, but people won't be fooled again.
Of course, they'd have to stand up in the house of commons and from what we've seen, they seem to support Harper conservative positions.

Gayle said...

jan - the broken promise on the GST cut was when again? Didn't Chretien win a couple majority governments after that particular broken promise? It appear people were "fooled again", and again, and again...

"Dion's gonna hafta deflect with a good reason why he changed his mind on carbon taxes."

Does it really matter?

Here is the thing - if people want a government that will implement solid environmental policies, they are going to have to vote LPC. The only other party that could form government is the CPC. So, given that choice, who would you vote for? Will you vote for a party whose platform you prefer over the LPC, knowing that doing so will elect Harper?

Even if you will do so, and I expect both of you will, do not forget most of the country are not die-hard partisans. They recognize the choice is really between two parties.

Steve V said...


The Conservatives have a bigger challenge than Mulroney, because their policies are so far from the mainstream. They will make the play, but I think you're right, the Libs could siphon off that soft NDP support in the province, I say soft because there is no history or roots, people could easily move away.


The Liberals have to grow somewhere, the "new" Green supporter would seem to be their best bet, especially when they "stole" one of your chief talking points.


Who will believe them? Well, if you have environmentalists and economists supporting the idea, Dion actually does have a measure of credibility with environmentalists, believe it or not, then it might just fly. Besides, the NDP is always targeting soft Liberal support, what is wrong with turnabout. Dion should just run an ad, using Layton's own words, in praise of Dion as honorable. That should help with believability ;)

Steve V said...

"The CPC are working so hard to bash Dion on this - I think it indicates they are worried."

So are others ;), I think it a sign of a threat. Time will tell.

Steve V said...

" do not forget most of the country are not die-hard partisans."


knb said...

Stealing? How would it be stealing? Hasn't Dion always supported cap and trade? To now support a tax shift as well just seems to be evolution and adapting to current conditions, (vis a vis the environment),to me.

Did the Greens invent the tax? Did the NDP conceive of cap and trade?

Come on people, it's called relying on what is out there and working.

RuralSandi said...

You know, Jack Layton and the NDP keep using Tommy Douglas - well, Layton isn't a Tommy Douglas.

In this situation what would Douglas have done? He'd side with the Liberals rather than risk the CPC getting a majority and cutting all social programs - he did it when he was in parliament with Trudeau.

Layton is truly an insult to Douglas' legacy.

Steve V said...

Canadians will never accept pragmatism. Yawn. Isn't part of being progressive, progressing on issues, isn't evolution of thought that is forward thinking a virtue. If people think Dion is crucified for endorsing something he once rejected, they really don't give people credit. Besides, the Con smear machine is so standard, most people are just turned off by it now, especially women voters. It just reinforces their own negative perceptions, a fact they don't seem to get. Yell away Johnny.

burlivespipe said...

As much as Dion's plan has a risky approach vis a vis in an election, it has all the makings of 'necessary medicine' and honesty.
Immediately, he's one up on Harper, who couldn't spell the latter.
Layton, on the other hand, is really gambling with the NdP vote by coming out and firing away. A strong core of his party's popularity was based on an environmental platform, yet now he's ready to again 'team-up' with the anti-environmental CON club to douse what may be positive action -- or at least that's how Suzuki and a variety of environmentalist and economists view the Liberal (admittedly sketchy) blueprint so far.
Layton's contention is that a tax shift does nothing to protect the little and middle class; instead, he wants a straight tax-based penalty of corporations. Of course, that's a winner, because we all know that, while corporations hate taxes, when they are hit with them they gently surrender - and never pass it on. No, by focusing the whole program at big corporations, the price at the grocery store, gas pump and community centre will all stay flat, if not go down, right?
Layton is dreaming if he believes his party's strategy won't affect the consumer at home and at work. Instead of true progress, it will be another chapter of unhappy voters, eating the 'The gov't made us do it' songfest from big business.
At least the tax shift notifies everyone that there are wise choices to be made. If there is a corresponding tax incentive for green technology, the spin should be all green. For everybody.

As for the CON's attempts at reliving the Mulrooney nationalist coalition, i hope they've got Lucifer Bouchard's number. But i must have forgot the part where Mulrooney insulted Ontarians and gave them a Avery-style elbow. But that's a chess move, apparently...

Dr. Tux said...

Remember the leaders convention?

Remember how Dion was not the first choice of many but had a wide lead in the second choice category. It's basically the same thing here.

There are different levels of partisanship, and excluding the diehard partisans like Jan and a few others, Dion CAN bring together a wide swath of the political spectrum here, on this issue.

This carbon tax-shift is about three things: the environment, the economy and social justice.

When you bring the environment and the economy together, create good jobs (which is a prerequisite for social justice), you create winning conditions in the next election.

I believe firmly that we can win the next election, by how much who knows? But it will take a large amount of work on the ground to sell the policy and the philosophy.

janfromthebruce said...

I can see the ads now - quoting Dion at the leadership convention - no carbon tax with his own words - with can he be trusted?

Of course the libs brought in Kyoto and did squat, and then voted with Harper's cons and squashed it.

National day care - Gail - was another big promise from 1993 - just didn't get her done.

Fix NAFTA - another promise - right after the election, quickly signed on the bottom line - yap, the libs they'll say anything to get elected.

As for Dion, the environmentalist, well under his watch, green house gases just kept on growing with all that voluntary stuff.

Following in the path of BC Gord Campbell's Socred's, I mean libs, just makes me feel really progressive all over - not!

Personally, I don't care what Dion tries to sell, he's going nowhere fast.

Steve V said...

"Personally, I don't care what Dion tries to sell, he's going nowhere fast."

And moving forward, Dion should care less if you're prepared to "buy", because your not the target, your a hardcore partisan. Essentially, the way I'm looking at the landscape, you're irrelevant.

ottlib said...


Steve has a point.

I am hoping beyond hope that the Liberals have turned a corner and will ignore people like you.

The Liberals could find the cure for cancer and solve world hunger and people like you would still find something to bitch about.

So, hopefully the Liberals have learned that trying to speak to you and your ilk is a useless gesture.

Gayle said...

So Jan I take it from your post that you know Dion's plan is good, and your only objection is that the liberals will not keep their promise.

Like all political parties, they have kept some promises and not others. Harper was breaking promises almost immediately.

Of course, the liberals have been in power for a long time, so it stands to reason there are more broken promises than other parties who either have not governed at all, or only for shorter periods of time.

As I say, breaking promises in 1993 did not prevent them from winning several subsequent elections, so I am not concerned about someone raising old news.

Anonymous said...

I still wish someone would explain to me how it is that supposedly 60% of Canadians support a Carbon Tax - yet 70% of Canadians also want a CUT in gas taxes and think that the price of gas and home heating fuel is way too high.

It's one thing for 61% to say they support a carbon Tax when the question is phrased in a way that sounds like its either a carbon tax or the earth will die. But I wonder what the polls would say if people were asked what they preferred - reducing GHG emissions by making individual Canadians pay vastly higher prices for gas and fuel OR reducing GHG emissions by imposing hard caps and heavy fines on major industrial polluters. I suspect option 2 wins out by a landslide!

ottlib said...

Or the third option anonymous, the taxes are shifted from income to carbon so any rise in the price of fuel is offset by the decrease in income taxes.

So, let's give Canadians the three choices and see which one they take.

Then again, why not combine the cap-and-trade option with the tax-shift option and take away the false choices.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, let's CUT income taxes while increasing a flat Carbon Tax. This is the neo-cons dream scenario. Is it any wonder that all these rightwing economists just love this "tax shifting nonsense"?? Right-wingers loathe progressive taxes like income taxes and they love flat taxes like sales taxes and Carbon taxes that invariably hit people at the bottom the hardest.

You gotta love the spectacle of Dion trying to defend his tax scheme by saying "look - very rightwing economists support it!!"

My reaction is that if Tom D'Aquino and Andrew Coyne LIKE the Carbon Tax/tax shifting - it is proof positive that these are policies that any self-respecting progressive person must avoid like the plague!

Steve V said...

"look - very rightwing economists support it!!"

And look over here, the hippy environmentalists love it too! Sounds like an idea that could have broad support.

Anonymous said...

Here’s what the president of the Environmental Defense Fund Fred Krupp–the man who helped establish a cap and trade system to limit acid rain pollution–recently said about carbon taxes.

"Why not a carbon tax?
There’s no example of an air pollution problem anywhere in the world that has been solved without a cap or legal limit on how much of that pollution can be dumped into the sky. A cap gives you that legal limit, where a tax allows people to potentially keep on paying a modest amount and keep on polluting."

Dion’s ‘pay and pollute’ scheme will not work.

Greg said...

I think Jan is on to something here. Dion has put a fairly good policy in the window. The question is, will voters believe that the Liberals, given their abysmal track record with Kyoto, will actually do what they say they will do? I don't believe it myself, but of course I am jaded.

clh said...

The Suzuki Foundation was very critical of Dion's 2005 plan as environment minister because it failed to set specific targets. The fact that Suzuki has now come out in support of Dion's plan means all the more because Suzuki typically has not been supportive of Liberals. It seems that Dion has been able to convince Suzuki that he will carry through.

Gayle said...

Greg - sure we an keep piling on the liberals about Kyoto, but maybe we should not be so quick to let ourselves off the hook. It is not like Canadians were demanding action on climate change 10 years ago.

Our own attitudes have changed considerably since then. Why do you think it is so hard to accept the liberals have gone through a similiar attitudinal shift?

clh said...

The CPC website has an attack on the carbon tax. Usual stuff, except that I haven't noticed them using the phrase "wealthy Liberal elites" in contrast to "working families" before.

CPC on carbon tax

Steve V said...

"A cap gives you that legal limit, where a tax allows people to potentially keep on paying a modest amount and keep on polluting."

A cap allows certain industries to keep on polluting, they just pay, a prospect which is hardly daunting to oil companies, and such, AWASH in profits.

Another aspect of a carbon tax, it can be used incrementally, which means over time, it becomes less and less economically feasible to carry on, without changing habits. There is no question it becomes an economic dis-incentive over time, so to say people just keep polluting doesn't make sense, or no less than simply buying credits.

Steve V said...


Jan is the jaded voter, I don't think it representative of anything frankly. Dion has conviction on his side, he speaks with honest passion, which should translate to something beyond lip service. Besides, as Gayle noted, if Dion can draw on supporters outside of the Liberal Party, it insulates him from the "13 year" crap.

Anonymous said...

"it insulates him from the "13 year" crap."

Why is it "crap". It is a 100% uncontestable FACT that the Liberals were in power for 13 years and during that time they did absolutely NOTHING about climate change and as a result Canada has just about the worst record on climate change of any industrialized country in the world.

Maybe Dion can start by getting on his hands and knees and saying "I plead with the Canadian people to forgive my party for its dreadful performance on the environment. Please, please, please give us another chance to make up for it"

shavluk said...

I of course want to say that the Green Party has quite a few other policies we will make available to better this country.

I also believe our vote totals will yes stun a few of you.

so you got's the rest! Have at er!

A carbon tax, an indispensable step in getting the prices right in energy choices and allowing reduced income and payroll taxes.
“Income-splitting” to reduce the tax burden on middle class couples.
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.
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.)
The phase out of nuclear power and uranium mining.
The reform of the Divorce Act to make family law less of a battleground.
To launch a national dialogue toward a Guaranteed Livable Income.
The legalization of marijuana, to be controlled, regulated and taxed.
The six month notice to get out of NAFTA with immediate re-negotiation of key provisions.
Support for open source software and net neutrality.
National shift to GE-free, organic agriculture and regional food self-sufficiency.
A moratorium on new projects in the tar sands.
Creation of a federal Department of Tourism
Protect drinking water at its source (no other party will do this--the BC NDP jailed citizens for trying to protect drinking water).
Amend the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to enshrine the right of Canadians to an ecological heritage that includes breathable air and drinkable water.
Pass federal legislation to prohibit bulk water exports.
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
Zero waste, including laws requiring lifetime stewardship of products
A cancer prevention strategy that includes a toxic-free Canada -- taxing toxins and pollution; ending the production and use of the most dangerous toxic chemicals by 2012.
Pan-Arctic waste management strategy.
Shift funding from mega-freeway projects like Pacific Gateway that encourage urban sprawl and use the funds instead for public transit.
Implement Genuine Progress Indicator (or Index of Well-being)
Enact "living will" legislation to give person the choice to die with dignity.
Explore establishing a new crown corporation to bulk purchase and dispense generic drugs - to bring down the costs of pharmacare.
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.
Press professional societies to remove unnecessary barriers recognizing the professional credentials of immigrants.
Canada must support and implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Revamp CIDA to focus on developing community-based green economies, poverty alleviation and programmes to combat and adapt to climate change.
Declare Canada a nuclear free zone.
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.
Scrap the SPP (Security and Prosperity Partnership).

Although there are many other commitments, I hope this is helpful short list of where we stand alone. We urge other parties to advance our policies.

Submitted by Elizabeth May on 6 December 2007 - 11:00pm

Steve V said...

"Why is it "crap". It is a 100% uncontestable FACT that the Liberals were in power for 13 years and during that time they did absolutely NOTHING about climate change and as a result Canada has just about the worst record on climate change of any industrialized country in the world."

Dion doesn't bear the weight of the entire Liberal legacy, hence the crap comment. I would also add, that the Conservatives cancelled many of the Liberal initiatives, then repackaged them, and now you hear them trumpeting them as some success. If the Liberals did absolutely nothing, then it is quite strange to hear the Cons now bragging about their "lifting" of nothingness. That could only make sense to a Conservative.

Anonymous said...

"Dion doesn't bear the weight of the entire Liberal legacy, hence the crap comment."

Dion was a cabinet minister for most of the 13 years that the Liberals were in power. While he personally may not bear the weight of the entire Liberal legacy - the Liberal Party as a whole sure as hell has to bear the weight of blame for their inaction during their 13 years in power. Who else do you blame? The Devil???

Steve V said...


Look, I voted NDP in the last election, and it was precisely because of the Liberals inaction on the environment. If I can distinguish Dion from "the Liberals", others will too. Dion doesn't carry the entire load here, that's just nonsense.

Anonymous said...

I agree. I just said that Dion doesn't carry the ENTIRE load of blame for Liberal non-cation on climate change. But he needs to bear a large part of the blame and the Liberal Party as a whole has to bear virtually all of the blame.

When you have a majority government and a divided moribund opposition for 11 straight years - there is no excuse at all for doing nothing.

If the Liberals want to be given another chance, why don't they apologize for their record in office and ask for forgiveness and why not point some fingers at who in the Liberal government was to blame for the total lack of action (according to Jeffrey Simpson's book, two of the biggest "eco-terrorists" in the Liberal government were Ralph Goodale and Anne MacLellan - why not declare them both to be persona non grata?)

JimBobby said...

Whooee! AnonnyFeller's got a point maybe, Steve. Now, I don't blame Dion too much on accounta he was only Environment Minister fer the last 18 months or something like that. The Grits under Martin and Chretien didn't do much and drove some people to votin' NDP, like yerself.

Now, Dion came in on a green tide with all them green scarves an' his bigass environmental credentials. I expected him to be right up on his hindlegs crowin' about savin' ol' Mother Earth and tryin' to push the Con's into doin' right by the planet. I really can't remember him or any of the Liberals championing the environment to any degree. Even with the hapless Rona, Dion didn't score any big points.

It's sorta like he fergot all about the environment and now he remembered all of a sudden and, dang-it, there's green votes to be harvested. I hope Dion can sell the tax-shift, even if he has trouble sellin' the Liberal brand. Any Earth-lovers who want a tax-shift but don't want Dion can vote fer the gal I adore, Earth Mother Lizzie May.


knb said...

JB, I'd saying going to Bali was showing concern and he did speak out during the Rona period, citing his own record.

There's more obviously, but to suggest that he's just now rediscovered the environment, especially just for votes, doesn't sound like your usual reasoned comments.

JimBobby said...

Well, knb, I'm just sayin' that I'd hoped for more focus on the environment from the Liberals in opposition, since Dion came in like he did. I'm happy as Larry to see him pushin' this new tax-shiftin' plan and I don't doubt he's committed. He's got some tough sellin' ahead on the BBQ circuit, fer sure.

Any word yet on when we'll be hearin' the details of this mysterious new plan? If I was a cynical guy, I might think he's gatherin' up all the negative responses from the trial balloon and adapting the details to counter them. Sure would be nice to get the nuts'n'bolts.


knb said...

The last I heard was sometime in June.

He and others have been clear that the plan isn't fully formed and that the reason he brought the issue up was to begin a national dialogue.

I'm sure they are strategizing on how to counter the negatives...but I'm sure that process started long before the announcement.

I understand what you are saying about Dion, but considering what he's been dealt since assuming the position of leader, well I cut him some slack.

For the record, I'm anxious for the nuts'n'bolts too.

Steve V said...

"The last I heard was sometime in June."

Over the weekend, I heard one Liberal (the name escapes me now) mentioned May 29th, in relation to the carbon plan. It was just a passing reference, but it was curious to say the least.

knb said...

Hmmm, interesting Steve. I haven't heard that yet, but I have heard that aspects of plan, will come out.

Harper btw, is the biggest defender of not putting out policy until the election.

Listening to the Con's demand a plan...well they live in the town named Hypocrisy.

Möbius said...

Look, I voted NDP in the last election, and it was precisely because of the Liberals inaction on the environment.

I'm not quite sure why you believe them now. I certainly have my doubts.

Steve V said...

"I'm not quite sure why you believe them now. I certainly have my doubts."

Dion might not have political sauvy, but the guy is beyond sincere. I have NO doubts on this score. None.