Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Last Resort

I thought this was a revelant closure, to Ignatieff's tax comments yesterday (h/t Jeff Jedras):
Today's scrum in Niagara Falls:

Ignatieff was asked to clarify his statement about raising taxes.

>> Mr. Michael Ignatieff: I said no such thing. I said no such thing. What I said was that mr. Harper has landed the country in an $80 billion deficit, and sooner or later we'll figure out how we get out of that. There are a couple of ways to go. One is tough expenditure reviews squeezing every bit of waste out of the federal government. The other way to reallocate expenditure from one priority to another. And then the other way, the third way is to get stimulus into the economy, so we get economic activity returning. We get growth up, we get tax revenues increasing, and the deficit is slowly squeezed out of the system. But I was asked a hypothetical question, what if none of that works? And no honest politician faced with an 80 billion deficit will take anything off the table because Canadians do not want, they are allergic long-term structural deficits. But I would do anything i can, any sensible politician would do anything they can to avoid increasing the tax burden on Canadians. Especially now. And hopefully later as well.

I like the "last resort" presentation, especially because it summarizes in detail the policies that would be put in place prior to any consideration. If anything, this type of answer shows a methodical thought process, which still includes a dose of realism. That mature answer is a far cry from the Conservative hysterics, although we all understand that "truth" isn't necessarily part of the political equation.

If this is our standard response, then its success will largely be a function of the leader's ability to articulate. We can debate the wisdom of entertaining the mere mention of taxes- particularly when that far reaching realism isn't necessarily required now- but this debate is a work in progress, any definite conclusion is premature. Ignatieff is clear, no new taxes during an economic downturn. That is a key point, and I have faith Ignatieff and the Liberals can make that case clearly. Leaving the door open, contrasted with Harper's disingenuous sales pitch, might just help Ignatieff's appeal, if there's a straight talk component, as opposed to telling you what you want to hear. Whatever, for better or worse, I have this sneaking suspicion that this issue isn't going away and may be a focus in a future election.


Anonymous said...

I find it somewhat incongruous that John Ibbitson was waxing on in his editorial today in the Globe and Mail that Obama needs to be more honest and forthright NOW about the fact that the US will face tax pain in the future:

Yes, John, worry about how the US President will handle that thorny issue. Say, don't you write for one of those Canadian papers? Are there any relevant recent Canadian analogies that might be made?

Nah, guess not. Carry on.


P.S. I am not comparing the situations as directly relevant, but in light of the Conservatives jumping all over the answer to a single hypothetically specific question (some would say "loaded question"), it seems as if some relevant associations might have at least been referenced.

Steve V said...

Probably doesn't want to rock the boat, with all that government advertising in play ;)

Anonymous said...

Good point . . . I hadn't thought of that, but I suspect they do, everyday.

ottlib said...

An unfortunate fact in politics. Most people tune into the first statement and ignore the clarification.

Mr. Ignatieff can expect to have this question dog him for awhile and as you said yesterday we will see an attack ad with his statements about tax increases prominently featured in the future.

Mentioning tax increases, even hypothetically, during a recession is just plain dumb from a political standpoint.

We can mark yesterday's statements as Mr. Ignatieff's first major gaffe as Leader of the Liberal Party.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Ottlib that it is a gaffe, and one will hear of again (and again). I think Ignatieff got ahead of his own self-image as a straight-shooter. Anytime a politician finds himself venturing into tax discussions, a bit of a warning should go off in his head.

I am not advocating taxes shouldn't be discussed, and I think honest discussion about taxes and budgets are needed - always. I certainly do NOT want to see Canada fall into the US model, in which both parties eschew taxes to the point of sinking the economy and exploding the deficits. On that level, I applaud Iggy for "keeping it real."

But any caveats during responses ("last resort" language, etc) regarding tax policy need to be expressed in the statement itself, not in clarifications the next day.

Steve V said...

I don't disagree in one sense, but it is noteworthy that honesty in this climate is considered a gaffe. And people wonder why politicos are so scripted all the time...

Anonymous said...

Note also that Baird and Layton are hammering Iggy now by promising that there will be no new taxes. If Baird wants to portray the Harperites as Harrisites or John Mc Cain wannabes, then that's fine with me. There is enough ammo for Kinsella's boys to run against.

I find it puzzling that Layton is also promising no new taxes. A party that is renowned for defending Canada's social safety net is believing that green incentives through federal government initiatives can do the trick in raising revenues. This is a replay of 2008 all over again!!!

Iggy has said that revenues will increase through a cap and trade. Will Jack reject this too?

Steve V said...

Mushroom, you'll note the absurdity in Layton's comments. Jack said we need to invest more in green initiatives, instead of raising taxes. Great logic Jack, increase government spending, that's the solution here. What a tool.

Northern PoV said...

gaffe prone - he just can not seem to keep his trap shut

he forgets he ain't a journalist or teacher any more

Gayle said...

Layton can promise anything he wants - he will never be asked to deliver.

All he is trying to do is alienate Iggy, probably because the LPC are eating into NDP support these days.

Anonymous said...

Oh, even I think that's a little easy, Northern POV. Everyone knows in this day and age, EVERY political figure will say something they regret - typically when trying to express an honest opinion. That's true even if every move is staged and scripted, as even the great Harper could attest.

This hardly qualifies as gaffe-prone.