If anyone thinks the Liberals will be standing alone, as they absorb criticism from all quarters on their tax shift (hey JB) proposal, they better think again. I've argued before, Dion needs to bring out economists and environmentalists alike, to rally support behind his ideas, to blunt the smear machine we all know is coming.
People can say what they want about David Suzuki, but the fact of the matter, he is Canada's most widely respected scientist, with tremendous popularity. You don't make the Top 10 list of greatest Canadians unless you have mass appeal, which I mention to counter the fringe view of the man as some crazy extremist that shouldn't be taken seriously. David Suzuki has clout, stature that is unrivaled on this file. When Baird decided to go head to head with Suzuki he lost badly, Canadians overwhelming sided with Suzuki. With that said, his blessing and/or rejection matters, especially if he doesn't stay on the sidelines, especially if he is vocal.
Suzuki made an appearance on Question Period today, wherein he endorsed Dion's approach to climate change. Within this support, some biting criticism of the NDP:
"I'm really shocked at the NDP on this, because I had thought the NDP had a very progressive outlook on this, and that astounds me. We have the same thing in British Columbia, a government that has proposed a carbon tax, and I take my hat off to them. Economists have been telling us that this is the most effective way to get people to change their behavior, and to have the NDP in British Columbia attacking this just astounds me, because there is just no question, this is the way to go. It's revenue neutral, it's not a tax grab, governments can use the revenue to help people, tax rebates for lower income. To oppose, this because of ideology or something is just nonsense. This is something that has got to come."
If Dion is able to enlist the support of people like Suzuki, directly or indirectly, it will serve him well moving forward. If you want to discount Suzuki, I think his opinion should be framed in this way- do 35-40% of Canadians have a favorable opinion of the man, do they take his advice seriously? Dion's plan doesn't need to win over everyone, he only needs to appeal to 35% of the electorate to win a minority, near 40% to reach the majority threshold. If this proposal becomes the central plank in an election campaign, many voters will make up their minds with this debate at the fore. Having someone like Suzuki in your corner will certainly be a lure to soft supporters of other parties. The stakes will be high, people will be vocal, it will be seen as "the" moment.
I voted NDP in the last election, primarily because I thought they had a very progressive platform on the environment, I'm sure I wasn't alone. I mention this because, if this election becomes a battle over the environment, Dion will benefit from having the environmental community endorsing his plan, it could sway people similar to myself, it could appeal to the "free agent" voter, it could help on the vote-splitting front. If I was a Liberal strategist, I would do my best to quietly ensure that Mr. Suzuki has a high profile this summer, encourage him to offer his non-partisan convictions in response to criticisms. There is no question, David Suzuki is a powerful ally, he is the defacto voice of the environmental community.