Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Words To Remember

I don’t get too excited about the predictable attacks on Dion that he’s “flip flopped” on the idea of a carbon tax. The reason, it’s not like anyone can argue this change is politically motivated to curry favor, hard to see the personal advantage in adopting a controversial plan. I think you can counter most of the criticism with a simple pragmatism argument, an evolution of thought. That said, Dion might be well served to review his past statements, particularly this one:
”A carbon tax is almost always implemented as a direct tax on fossil fuels. Given the current price of these fuels, however, it is difficult to argue that a further price signal will dampen consumption or shift demand.

That “current price” in 2006, looks like utopia from here. I’ve said this before, but I hope this “tinkering” we are doing now encompasses some sort of threshold mechanism, wherein any tax only kicks in if prices drop to a certain level. We are in the midst of seismic consumption changes at the moment, the cost of fuel is already having the desired effect.

If Dion was right then, then it’s hard for any plan to argue differently now, given the present circumstance. Dion can change his opinion, but on the above score, those words have the potential to haunt him, if this plan doesn’t factor in the WOW of the NOW. If the goal is too cut emissions, change habits, nobody could argue that the market isn’t doing exactly that at the moment. The Liberal plan must acknowledge that simple, objective fact.

8 comments:

The Grumpy Voter said...

Stephane Dion — 2006:

"A carbon tax is less effective than a carbon market at reducing emissions. Some of my opponents for the Liberal leadership have suggested that a carbon tax would be the most effective measure to curb climate pollution. This is simply bad policy, for the following reasons:

1. A carbon tax is almost always implemented as a direct tax on fossil fuels. Given the current price of these fuels, however, it is difficult to argue that a further price signal will dampen consumption or shift demand.

2. A carbon tax is a flat tax – it costs each polluter a fixed amount per tonne of emissions. Such a tax will not inflate with a bull market or recede in times of difficulty. In the energy market, in particular, soaring prices make anything but a prohibitively high tax a mere nuisance for large producers.

3. Finally, and most significantly, valuing reductions in emissions equally across all sectors and industries eliminates the potential benefits to be had by maximizing reductions where the cost is lowest. In a carbon market, those areas that produce the least expensive real reductions will experience the highest level of interest and investment, maximizing the level of reductions per dollar spent."

Words sometimes, can be a bitch. This is why his carbon *shift* will be DOA once he announces it. I suspect the ridiculous amount of time to announce the new policy has something to do with trying to milk a believable spin out of this colossal flip flop of shower thong proportions.

Steve V said...

" I suspect the ridiculous amount of time to announce the new policy has something to do with trying to milk a believable spin out of this colossal flip flop of shower thong proportions."

Or, they might just be trying to get it right.

Harold said...

Jane Taber's article in today's G&M is a pretty damning indictment of the disarray surrounding this policy. It concludes, citing a "veteran Liberal" as saying "They don't know. They don't have a clue" regarding the implementation of the tax.

Möbius said...

a believable spin out of this colossal flip flop of shower thong proportions.

Interesting turn of words.

The policy could be a good one, but the selling of the policy is the most important facet of it.....

I'm not sure why it was announced (leaked?) before it was fully formed. I suspect John Tory was helping out with the campaign.

Steve V said...

"I'm not sure why it was announced (leaked?) before it was fully formed."

Good question. A few days maybe, but clearly this thing was leaked well before meat was on the bone.

ottlib said...

Or it was a trial balloon to draw out reactions from folks so they could address them. It is not an uncommon practice, particularly if the policy is believed to be somewhat controvercial.

As usual the G&M story relies on the word of "senior Liberals" without actually naming names. A fine political journalist trick used by all political journalists needing to satisfy their editors and the 24 hour news cycle. I rarely buy what they are selling regardless of what they are talking about, including when it is good news for the Liberals. And Taber and Duffy are the worst for this kind of BS.

The delay could very well be the result of disorganization or it could be the result of not wanting to change the channel on the current Conservative troubles. Considering the latest Conservative to find himself in trouble because of Maxime Bernier's former trophy girl the Liberals would be downright silly to let them off the hook.

The tax shift plan can wait. The Conservatives and the NDP have been trying to define it for weeks and they have generally been unsuccessful.

In the meantime we can watch the spectacle of senior Conservatives behaving badly.

Steve V said...

"Or it was a trial balloon to draw out reactions from folks so they could address them."

Ottlib, that's what I thought. When this was first leaked, the Liberals had the advantage of watching everyone react, everyone expose their attack lines, and they could see their allies. This allowed for tweaking prior to release, a potential better package in the end. I would argue now that the positives of that are behind us, and we better get this thing out PRONTO.

ottlib said...

Steve:

Let the Conservatives twist in the wind during the daily Question Periods for another few days.

Once the House rises then present the plan.

That has the advantages of allowing Conservative scandals to further root themselves into the consciousness of Canadians and of having the summer break beginning with Canadians talking about the Liberal tax shifting plan.

It would be quite the contrast would it not? The Conservatives as the Keystone Kops and the Liberals calmly presenting a policy to deal with an issue that is still the most important to Canadians.

It would sort of give the impression that perhaps the Liberals are indeed a government in waiting.

Incidentally, I would agree with you 100% if the Conservatives were not having so much difficulty. But it is going to take the summer for them to recover from this Winter and Spring, if they can recover, which should give Mr. Dion a few precious weeks where he will essentially be the only game in town, except of course, for the usual sniping from the Conservatives and the NDP.