Ignatieff stressed that the general theme was developed, the carrot and the stick, but said people are still "working on the details". Ignatieff's only real talking point was arguing that the policy would consider the poor, people on fixed incomes, rural Canadians, farmers, those in northern regions. Ignatieff volunteered this angle, and it speaks to why waiting has been beneficial. The NDP and Conservatives have already articulated their attack lines, which allows the Liberals to tinker at their leisure, to ensure that the policy's ultimate release speaks clearly to any criticisms. I fall back on what I've said before, the Liberals have the benefit of watching a national focus group, debating the merits, laying out the pitfalls, all the while not defined, not boxed in to anything, able to digest and react. As Ignatieff said, the policy is still being developed, does anyone doubt people aren't focused on shoring up any weak spots? I consider this an envious position.
What became obvious later, Layton is now on the defensive, defending his own resistance to a tax shift, forced to show he hasn't lost the high road on the environment. The NDP are now reacting to the Liberals on the environment, they are taking their cues from Liberal policy, as opposed to the usual circumstance. On center stage, the Liberal plan, everyone else speaking in reaction.
On top of that, we now have Elizabeth May, effectively having Dion's "back" on a tax shift, supporting his idea, while simultaneously trashing the NDP. You can argue the merits of any plan, but I think it pretty much indisputable that having two separate parties arguing essentially the same idea has the potential to hurt the NDP, the Dion/May supposed alliance is starting to move to the practical:
NDP Leader Jack Layton's opposition to a carbon tax shows he's more interested in hurting the Liberals than helping the environment, says Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.
"Canadians are sick of politicians who don't tell them the truth," May said.
Some politicians "want to pander to prices at the pump while ignoring disappearing glaciers, persistent droughts and increased storm events," she said.
"We need to act on the climate crisis, and I'm disappointed that Mr. Layton is on the wrong side of this one."
Moving forward, there is no question that the acrimony between the NDP and Greens can, and if today was any indication, will work to the Liberals advantage. If there is one issue, that reporters will seek out May, it's on the environment, it's where she will get maximum exposure, and now, it just so happens she will argue in favor of the tax shift, while slamming the NDP. There will probably be minor points of distinction between the Green and Liberal plan, but the broad strokes create a two-pronged attack, somewhat insulating Dion. In terms of strategy, it's hard to see the downside for the Liberals in this scenario. It is actually Layton that runs the risk of being isolated, as environmentalists and economists, Greens and Liberals, argue from the same angle, and he is left to defend why cap and trade is the only way to go. Toss in the criticism, what is good for the NDP, over what is good for the planet, and you have a bad narrative developing. You can see it in British Columbia
Another poll out today, that shows growing support for a carbon tax, as well as potential problems for the NDP's resistance:
- Canadians are warming up to the prospect of paying an environmental tax on activities that cause climate change, but they don't necessarily expect to get the money back in the form of income tax cuts, a new poll has revealed.
When told that the government of British Columbia had recently introduced "a carbon tax on fossil fuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," 72 per cent of those surveyed in the poll said that this was a positive step versus 23 per cent who thought that it was a negative step. The poll surveyed 1,009 Canadian adults across the country between April 29 and May 9, 2008 and is considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
The support for B.C.'s carbon tax is fairly uniform across Canada," he said. "Six out of 10 people definitely support it when you look at the numbers."
The strongest support for a carbon tax appears to come from Quebec and the Atlantic provinces where 81 per cent and 77 per cent of respondents respectively said that the B.C. tax was a positive step.
People support cap and trade, so Layton finds support on that score, but it is really mute, since the Liberals are on board for that concept, plus:
A carbon tax and a cap-and-trade program both put a price on pollution - they're much more similar than Mr. Layton suggests," said Clare Demerse, a senior climate change policy analyst at the Pembina Institute. "Our poll does support Mr. Layton's call for investments in energy efficiency programs like home retrofits, but it also shows that Canadians want those investments to be in addition to carbon tax programs like BC's. Canadians understand the urgency of global warming and they see that we need both approaches."
Here we are today, Liberals standing back, watching everyone react, watching everyone expose themselves, flushed out of the weeds, with no details, no commitment, complete control. Allies are lining up behind, others are forced to defend, but there is no doubt who is on center stage. It is a great position, when you think about it, you can see the landscape ahead and you've yet to move, a rarity in politics.