Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Liberals Should Revisit Carbon Tax

Almost absurd to even suggest, given the Conservatives are currently accusing the NDP of advocating, even though the party doesn't support a carbon tax, a testament to how some see the mere mention as politically advantageous.  However, if one delves deep into the problems that have plagued the Liberal Party of Canada, a "rethink" on abandoning the carbon tax idea is warranted.

In an effort to be all things to everyone, the Liberals have ended up being no things to nobody.  Other parties take strong stances, and while they alienate, they also build up a core, devoted base.  In addition, there is a certain authenticity in the idea of standing behind a principle.   For instance, the NDP and Conservatives both hold certain ideals that don't necessarily translate to majority support, and yet they have cobbled together formidable coalitions.   What is the Liberal constituent?  More and more, a wishy washy "middle" ground, which is entirely practical but hardly conveys any moxy or distinguishing quality.

The carbon tax is sound economic and environmental policy. The carbon tax has already been implemented successfully in Canada.  The carbon tax has the support of the very people that will be most affected, the oil and gas industry.   Most of all, support of a carbon tax is a philosophical commitment that speaks to a core commitment, across a host of files.  

As well, a carbon tax is considered politically toxic given what happened to the Liberals in 2008, and for that reason complete taboo.   The mere mention of the word within Liberal circles sends us scrambling for the exits, we can't distance ourselves fast enough.   That said, the party is still associated with the Liberals, mention carbon tax and you immediately make the connection.  With this reality in mind, when Liberals pledge they no longer support what they previously did- with passion I might add- it rings hollow, people assume we are still "closet" carbon tax proponents.   So, we have a double negative, the spectre of underlying support, as well as the perception that we don't stand for anything, afraid to stick our necks out, cowering in the face of controversy.  Herein lies the entire problem with the good ship Liberal.

If you want to deal with GHG's, then a carbon tax is an effective way to curb emissions, as well as reward cleaner energy sources, it is a transformational regime.  Rather than retreat in the name of political expediency, a fighting party doubles down on an idea that speaks to conviction.  In addition, given current humble realities, the Liberals are "free" in a sense to redefine their constituency and stand firm.  I will always find it amusing that we Liberals can champion a key policy with committed zeal, then suddenly turn our backs in the name of fear and calculations.  Did we really believe in a carbon tax?  Did we knock on doors and emotionally defend the idea in the name of conviction, what we felt was right for the economy and society?  If you answered yes, then that is the bottom line and we should continue the fight, because we believe it is just and necessary.   This isn't to dismiss the very real problems with easy "TAX, TAX, TAX" soundbites, only that it comes down to a question of policy convenience or real commitment.

I'd rather go down fighting for true ideals, then devote myself to some party of appeasement, reactive rather than steadfast.  If the carbon tax is something you genuinely support, if it addresses certain core problems in the most effective way, then you don't abandon in the name of political calculation, you plant your feet and stand firm.  If that is the Liberal attitude, I assure we will be ultimately rewarded, because in the end we will be a party with a clear identity and purpose.

This is one Liberal that still PROUDLY supports a carbon tax and will welcome any leadership candidate that has the stones to push the discussion.

8 comments:

Canadian silver bug/Green Assassin Brigade said...

"Did we really believe in a carbon tax? Did we knock on doors and emotionally defend the idea in the name of conviction, what we felt was right for the economy and society? '

In my riding the Liberal Candidate was both unwilling and seemingly unable to defend the Carbon Tax when cornered on the policy. Bad Candidate or unconvinced Candidate? I don't know but I've heard similar tales from other ridings which makes me believe this was a policy many liberals insiders did not accept. So while a Carbon tax is the correct policy its hardly a great plank to rebuild Liberal identity around when you can't convince your own let alone the public.

If Dion continues to push for a CT he'll end up sitting with May before the session is over.

Steve V said...

So, we only adopt policy if it finds universal support? Good luck with that, as well as a testament to what plagues Liberals imho.

One thing I continually find with Liberal "insiders", the moment you suggest anything that denotes controversy or sticks you neck out, you are immediately met with "oh that's crazy" or "you can't do that", "you'll alienate people". Newsflash, people have left us in droves, mostly because they think we are political weatherwanes.

Canadian silver bug/Green Assassin Brigade said...

Fare enough, but if you're going to push "controversial" policy then you have to do a better job vetting Candidates to ensure they buy into those policies. A salesmen has to be a damned good actor/liar or believe in their product, in this case they didn't appear to believe. Certainly Dion's communication problem was part of the problem but no one else, especially local Candidates stepped up to filled the communication gap

JimBobby said...

Well, Steve, I'll grant that Dion is the world's worst salesman and a much, much better p[itch can be made for CT. That said, I think there are other issues that would resonate better w/ voters. Broad environmental support; concern re capitulation to China's whims; aboriginal respect; water(!); etc.

Steve V said...

I wonder how controversial the policy even is now, given the oil patch is ASKING for such a regime. That said, I understand your point.


JB

I am not saying this should be a cornerstone issue, only part of a compelling stable of ideas. Not a question of emphasis, just commitment.

S.H. said...

Did the carbon tax help the Liberals in 2008? No.

But it didn't hurt us as much as some like to claim. Remember the the Liberals and Dion were rising in the polls, carbon tax not withstanding, until Mike Duffy's hatchet job on Dion.

The thing about the CPC's attack on a Carbon Tax is that it they was all lies. If you can't beat Harper when he's full of BS then how can you expect to beat him with any policy?

Cut income taxes by 30-35% and bring in a carbon tax (with a low income earner refundable credit) on things that I can then decide to buy or not.

Tie it all into the environment AND personal freedom AND lower overall taxes for those who take personal responsibility for their actions. Then let Harper flail away.

Shake things up and stop being wussies.

Jerry Prager said...

Consider that 140 of the nations top economists signed a letter supporting the carbon tax in the middle of Dion's election, I'd say the failure of the campaign team to capitalize on that was a major failure in itself. How about the party focus on addressing Kieth Davies concentration of media warnings from the 1970's, you can't beat an opponent that controls most of the media through 3 companies and then blathers on about liberal bias. Mike Duffy can rot in hell too.

Möbius said...

As I suggested in the Dion days, give the cuts to people first, then balance it with carbon tax funds afterwards, using a real accountant to figure it out. With the distrust of politicians, who believes that they'll get the money back at some later date, the whole revenue neutral argument?

They'd be real "offsets" if you offset the tax by a year or so from the cuts. Sure, it would increase deficits in the short term, but they're mainly artificial anyways.