Sunday, May 18, 2008

One Thing Is Clear

As everyone digests the merits of Dion's yet to be determined carbon emissions plan, there is no debating the "leader" question. If one were to pinpoint the greatest challenges the Liberals face, if they are to win the next election, at the top of the list would surely be Dion and his perceived weakness. Rightly, or wrongly, Dion is considered a drag on the Liberal brand, a check on further Conservative erosion, a reason why voters look elsewhere. In that sense, it is hardly a bad development to have Dion championing a risky proposition.

The most common term used so far, to describe Dion's plan is "bold", we've also heard reference to terms like "courageous" from unlikely sources like Mike Duffy. Others would argue the first words that come to mind are "silly", "suicidal", "ill-conceived", etc, but these are all tactical considerations, that don't necessarily undercut the fact that what Dion is poised to do, represents everything that leaders should embody. The fact any tax shift comes with risk, is actually a testament that Dion is acting on principle first, pandering an afterthought.

Nuts and bolts aside, it is refreshing to see a measure of conviction, a calculation that starts with a belief in good policy, then entertains ways to make that policy fly. Contrast that approach, with the retail politics obsession of the Conservatives, and Dion starts to emerge from the shadows. No one can claim, for or against, critic or proponent, that Dion isn't demonstrating leadership on this file, is anything but cautious, or dithering. In many respects, this policy stands as a direct contradiction to the Dion narrative to date, it is the anti-Dion caricature.

In a way, the good policy first approach, may actually be a way to leverage political advantage. There is certainly an appetite with voters, for politicans who tell them like it is, instead of what they want to hear, who show the capacity for honesty, based on passion, rather than marketing. If, at the end of the day, certain quarters dismiss Dion's proposals, no one can argue a lack of "guts", it is an inherent quality within these proposals. Granted, the Conservatives will frame Dion as out of touch, heaps of bombastic language, but where it matters, with the soft supporter, the swing vote, it should say something about leadership.

Dion is now on center stage, for the first time people will debate his ideas, attacks start with his premise, support rallies behind him. Dion will be the one fiercely defending his vision, all his surrogates will line up behind that vision, a good portion of a lazy summer will have Dion in focus. At the end of the day, fail or succeed, it will be hard for anyone to say Dion is "not a leader", that one thing is clear.


Anonymous said...

Dion should refer to it as "tax shift", which is what it's called(see Alan Durning). This begins the conversation. It should also be put forward as part of broader environmental policy.

knb said...

Steve, I completely agree with you. (I know, you're shocked, lol).

I think some interesting times lie ahead.

All that money spent on a caricature and poof!

anon, I suspect it will be referred to in those terms as time goes on, but that won't stop the Con's from calling it a disaster.

Still, it will be up to them to prove their disaster points, with fact rather than hyperbole.

Anonymous said...

Les Whittington has a good article of this in the Star.

Confirms what you have been saying in previous blogposts.

Of course, there is a maxim which says governments fall from power, they cannot be defeated. Dion is trying to defeat the Harper government, not let it fall on its own.

Maybe it has to be this way. Cadscam, Election-gate, and Mulroney-Schreiber cannot enhance the Liberal brand. There has to be some protein to a tired old platter which has been bereft of solid policies in the distant past.

JimBobby said...

Whooee! Congrats, Steve. You made it through the whole post without using the phrase "carbon tax." You're practicing what Anon is preaching. Smart.

I think some of my fellow treehuggers are a little worried now that you guys lifted the top item on Lizzie's List of Green Uniqueness. I ain't too worried. We've still got 30-odd more unique policies. I'm happy that we've been able to convince your guy on this issue and he can help himself to a few more, if he wants.

If Dion goes around tryin' to sell a carbon tax, he's screwed. If he goes out and sells a tax-shift policy, he's got a chance. It's all laid out in Vision Green so you guys can save some time writin' and get busy sellin' GPC policy right away.

Selling a big idea that includes a whole new category of taxation is going to be tough. This will really test Dion's mettle. I reckon it's do or die. First thing he needs to do is convince 100% of the LPC caucus.

Calgary Junkie said...

Good to see that you guys are finally getting around to following the advice of Liberal pollster Michael Marzolini--to talk more about policies.

But if ever the devil was in the details, this "tax shift" plan is it. So far, every Liberal MP has adamantly denied that the price of gasoline will go up because of this plan.

Ok fine. I guess the tax will only apply to heating oil, natural gas and the like. But the use of these things won't change much, since Canadians still need to heat their homes.

So what's the point of it all ?

Or to put it another way, how much will green house gases go down after this plan is in place ?

Brammer said...

Traditionally, one side of the house of commons:
- spends its time throwing mud at the other side
- is usually devoid of bold ideas or plans and is content to blame every event on the other side
- normally determines when an election should be held.

Traditionally, the other side of the house:
- patiently tolerates all the mud slinging
- determines when an election should be held, and
- has a vision for the future of canada.

It is pretty obvious which side Dion is on.

Brammer said...


I meant to say the first side usually has no control over when the election is held.