Friday, January 18, 2008

Dion: One Step Forward, One Step Back

Today, Stephane Dion effectively out-flanked the Harper government in Ontario and Quebec. You can argue the economic merits of an aid package for the manufacturing sector, but the optics of a pro-active Liberal Party vs the Conservatives "don't expect anything" approach offers a welcome distinction. Dion will aid the manufacturing sector, in a way that works in concert with a green economy:
A Liberal government would establish a $1-billion fund to help manufacturers move into green technologies, Stephane Dion pledged Friday.

The Liberal leader said his proposed Advanced Manufacturing Prosperity Fund would help pay for research and development projects aimed at boosting the hard-pressed manufacturing sector.

He told a Hamilton Chamber of Commerce meeting he has met business and union leaders, premiers and environmentalists over the last year to discuss the troubled manufacturing sector.

"They all bring different viewpoints to the table, but there is consensus on one thing: they all want to see Canada's manufacturing sector become a world leader in green technologies,'' he said. "The . . . fund is designed to help accomplish precisely that''.

Thousands of factory jobs have disappeared in recent years and Dion says it's time to go beyond simple tax corporate breaks.

"Tax cuts alone are not enough,'' he said. "The federal government must partner with the manufacturing sector as it adjusts to recent economic shocks. That requires strategic investment''.

In addition to the prosperity fund, the Liberals would provide tax credits to support private research which doesn't translate into immediate profits.

Harper offers:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper further dampened expectations of a similar boost for Canada, warning in his bluntest language yet not to expect major tax or spending measures in the 2008 budget.

Mr. Harper said he delivered the bulk of new goodies in October's mini-budget, which offered annual relief worth up to $6-billion for corporations, $1.5-billion for income tax filers and $6-billion for shoppers.

"We are not anticipating taking on in the spring any kind of significant, ongoing additional tax or expenditure commitments," he said yesterday, referring to the budget expected in late February or early March.

A one billion dollar package is hardly enough to solve the problems, but it demonstrates a recognition of the need to intervene. Contrast that with the Conservatives relative indifference, and it is pretty easy to accesss which approach will play well with voters. Dion's commitment isn't large enough to justify the howls of fiscal irresponsibility, but enough to send a clear message. The fact that the fund is in keeping with the overall theme of modernizing the Canadian economy gives the Dion message a consistent thread. The Liberals are clearly winning the battle of appearances, when it comes to the economic concerns in central Canada.


The other day, I posted on Dion's Afghanistan comments. While the details of Dion's statements needed to be fleshed out, it seemed pretty clear to me what Dion meant. If Pakistan can't deal with insurgents coming across the border, then NATO would. Pakistan is already under tremendous diplomatic pressure, from all quarters, to deal with the tribal regions, eliminate the sanctuary for terrorists. I'm quite certain that the NATO high command is already in constant contact with Pakistani authorities to try and deal with the problem. I read Dion as understanding the need for a military component to deal with the situation in Pakistan. If Dion meant moving Canadian soldiers from the south to help seal the eastern border with Pakistan, that is a proposal that may have merit, something worthy of debate. If Dion meant moving forces into Pakistan, then that is an entirely different animal.

I heard Dion today on a talk-radio show, discussing the controversy over his Pakistan comments. I must admit, Liberal membership aside, there seemed an element of backtracking from statements which seemed fairly transparent. Did Dion mean "diplomatic"? I suppose, but Dion didn't specify at the time, and if so, his declaration was really a given. To be frank, I find the revisions somewhat confusing. Whatever your opinion, this issue was handled badly and doesn't achieve much on the "leadership" front.


One step forward, one step back.


Anonymous said...

I want you to get this straight...After Dion threatened to invade reported in all the MSM...NOTHING and I do mean NOTHING that comes out of his mouth will play in this country...
You do not remember that the Conservatives already have an eco trust plan as we speak for the exact same thing...Dion...too little too...late...Dion is NOT worth the risk

Steve V said...

"Dion is NOT worth the risk"

Somebody visits too much. When you have an original thought, get back to me.

Anonymous said...

It is really strange that Dion who has been around the federal government for more than 11 years does not even know what programs already exist. Sheesh. Canada already has billions earmarked for innovation and green technologies that includes manufacturing.

Especially since one of the programs, technology partnerships has been proven tgo be a multi billion dollar Liberal slush fund which made headlines for its abuse and needed to be cleaned up and for good reason taken arm's length away from the Liberal MPs who used this as a vote buying promise fund.

Just what we need - another duplication of programs with our money.:

Here's a start with the links. Maybe you can forward to your dear leader or the brain trusts that are coming up with his elementary school politicis 101 useless programs:

Steve V said...


Are you referring to all those Liberal programs the Conservatives slashed in their first budget, only to re-package them later, when they read the polls? Nobody is buying, koolaid addicts aside.

Anonymous said...

Well then Steve - - you Do admit that programs already exist. These are neither Liberal or Conservative programs, by the way. They are paid for by the taxpayer.

My point is made and confirmed by you. If they were so called "Liberal" programs then don't you think Dion should know about them? If they were repackaged or not don't you think it would be at least a prudent first step to do an analysis of what already exists before coming up with a "new" fund with a billion of our dollars that duplicates existing programs?

Who do you think is writing these Dion brain farts? Bob Rae was supposed to be drafting policy. maybe you Liberals need a policy conference so these airy fairy ideas can be better researched and articulated and voted on.

Steve V said...


You are mixing apples and oranges. The EcoTrust is too help government with greenhouse gases. Dion is proposing help to develop private sector technologies. The government plan to help manufacturing is too reduce taxes, at least that is Flaherty's consistent argument. Dion is arguing we need more, and despite your overt hatred, it will resonate in central Canada. Why are the QUebec and Ontario governments asking for more from Ottawa, if they are already doing so much, as you argue? Again, nobody's buying, except the faithful, who seem to get their talking points from head office.

Anonymous said...

Quebec and Ontario are asking for direct subsidies to businesses; not "green incentives". So, do you think that it is good policy to subsidize Ford?

Also, there are many regional programs tailored to the diversity of needs. In the west there are huge incentives for ethanol production and diversification in the ag industry for example. Some manufacturers are doing quite well because they produce products the marketplace wants and have innovated.
Do you think it wise to subsidize (with taxpayer money) dying businesses that produce products nobody wants to buy at prices nobody wants to pay just to look like you are doing something for jobs and votes? If these were viable businesses then the private sector should invest - why use MY taxes ?

$1 billion of your and my money for the squeeky wheels for votes and no other practical reason.

Sounds like the Liberals have not learned a thing.

Steve V said...

"huge incentives for ethanol production and diversification in the ag industry for example"

Maybe you better go back and look at which government poured money into ethanol refineries?? Too funny.

Anonymous said...

Why are you so hung on on which government developed programs? What difference does it make? It is taxpayer money and the same beaurocrats.

The difference NOW is that ALL of these programs are open for audits and we can see where the money goes , what it is spent on and there are outcomes expected that can be assesed because of the Accountability Act.

Finally - no abuses like the past will be soved under the carpet. Like maybe we could find out what Paul Martin did with the $64 million or so he got from a program when he was Finance Minister. Arn't you a bit curious?

You should cheer the existance of these programs as a Canadian as long as they are well managed and not abused anymore.

Oh, and BTW, a huge part of the ethanol initiative through Agriculture was recent - within the past two years. Conservative/Liberal - who cares - it's good for the country.

The link I gave you from the GofC site is just a start if you want to really research all of the existing industry initiatives - old and new2. Maybe you could let Dion know?

Steve V said...

"Oh, and BTW, a huge part of the ethanol initiative through Agriculture was recent - within the past two years. Conservative/Liberal - who cares - it's good for the country."

Bullshit, all of the infastructure put in place was subsidized by the Liberals.


Anonymous said...

"subsidized by the Liberals????" - with YOUR money.

Why do Liberals think that taxpayer money is THEIRS? It is yours and mine. We just want good managers who will spend it wisely.

And by the way "subsidies " is really really bad economic policy - like a big black hole - unless the funds have real and measurable objectives towards standing on their own two feet.

"subsidies" is what got many of the struggling businesses in trouble in the first place. They depended on the Liberal largess (of our money) as "income" and spent and spent and psent. Have a look at what kind of salaries Bombardier pays it's executives. And still they scream for more, more more.

Red Tory said...

Steve — With all due respect, I really don't know why you tolerate ANONYMOUS fuckwads incapable of differentiating between shit and shinola.

Steve V said...


I was just thinking that :) First, it says the Tories had the program, then when it turns out its the Liberals, it becomes wasting my money subsidizing. Amazing to watch the gymnastics.

Anonymous said...

Steve is right, there is nothing like this right now at a federal level. The PM announced Ecotrust in Quebec, pledging $350million to aid in envrionmental projects in Quebec only. (Talk about the squeeky wheels of vote getting)Since then, I haven't heard much about Harper's ecoTrust.

In the US, at the state level mind you, subsidies and tax breaks exist for private industries that comply with internationally recognized environmental standards (LEED for example). I'm all for decentralization in many respects, but on environment and green industry, it would be best to set standards in Ottawa.

Just my two bits.

Anonymous said...

If Anon is so worried about OUR money, perhaps he/she should write Harper about more research/polling after it has come out that CPC have spent over $31 million on polling, about double that of any other government - well, I got a phone call this afternoon "this is the Government of Canada - if you have a child under the age of 18 and make less that $30,000/year - press 1 (I hung up at that point).

The nerve to keep spending and spending on this crap for his campaign when he won't help manufacturers.

Enough already.


Steve V said...

cousin ben ;)

The government did roll out similar Eco funding all across the country. As a matter of fact, I think Baird did so seperately in almost every province, to maximize exposure (I wonder what the carbon footprint for that public relations exercise came to). You're right though, it was money for the provincial government, not what anon wants to believe.


It's particularly obnoxious, given the Cons holier than thou attitude when in opposition.

burlivespipe said...

Well, after Harper threatened to invade Newfoundland and crush Saskatechwan into tiny grannels of grain to feed his gargoyles, I guess Dion's threat to invade Afghanistan is just raising the stakes. And of course none of the above was actually part of reality. But the CON trolls, eager to shake off their radioactive dust, can't help but copy the Republikan Liars Club code of ethics.
What toads.

Anonymous said...

Ballard Power $450 MILLION subsidy dollars from the Cdn gov't over the years to develop a hydrogen fuel cell. And now Ballard has sold that division, a division that was almost worthless. When gov't "picks winners and losers" in the subsidy game they usually do not pick well, and they almost never pick for anything other than political reasons. A lot of Ballard folks got very very wealthy off of this and then they dump the division overseas. Hey Mr. Dion can promise a Bil here a Bil there but is it really the right thing to do.

northwestern_lad said...

Steve... I'm gonna try to be kind about this, but Dion is not really offering much different than Harper. Harper's $1 Billion is the same amount as Dion's $1 Billion, with the exception that Dion's is aimed only at manufacturing, leaving Forestry out in the cold. Also, Dion's Billion is supposed to be "targeted", more than likely meaning Southern Ontario and Quebec's auto industries.

Honestly, how you get Dion cares any more (or less) than Harper by giving the same amount of money seems to be a bit odd. Like I said over at my blog, if Harper's $1 Billion wasn't good enough, Dion's sure isn't any better. But that's just my two cents.

Steve V said...


Why is forestry out in the cold? I think you need to let the other shoe drop here. Even if we use your logic of a billion is a billion, Dion's support for manufacturing would be more, given the forestry angle wouldn't it? You also mention where the money will go, which is strange, because shouldn't it go to the source? Is it a bad idea to focus help in the auto sector, the industry that needs help, which is responsible for tens of thousands of spinoff jobs? Trying to deal the manufacturing crisis, without keying in on the auto industry is pure folly. I'm sure Layton would agree ;)

northwestern_lad said...

Steve... Dalton McGuinty himself said that in Ontario "they do deals like these in the Billions"... Yeah, because the Forestry industry has been left out here, the rest of the manufacturing sector will get more, but really, how much more??? I would argue that under Harper's plan, the Forestry sector is going to get prescious little, mean that most of that will end up going to the manufacturing sector.

And I wasn't saying "Ignore the Auto Sector". What I was saying is that there is more to the Manufacturing Sector than the Auto Sector, yet it is the auto sector that keeps getting the lions share of the help. The Forestry sector has been suffering for longer, and hasn't gotten anywhere near the kind of support that the Auto sector has. I'm not saying "ignore the Auto Sector". I'm saying "what about everyone else?" and "why does the Auto Sector get helped first get all this help first?". That doesn't send a signal that Dion cares anymore than Harper. Harper has failed, but Dion hasn't risen much higher here.

Anonymous said...


Dion is offering more tax cuts to businesses than Harper, by lowering further corporate tax rates. Flaherty is merely going to say I have done enough after rehashing Goodale's proposed tax cuts before the 2006 election.

Of course, you take the opposite view.

Steve V said...


In your post, you mention that the NDP has been arguing this direction for years. If that is true, then shouldn't you be applauding, rather than trying the "liberal/tory, same old story" argument? Is Layton wrong then?

Anonymous said...


Let's talk about the Pakistan issue.

Contrary to the Liberal spin, I have checked it again. You are right, Dion said NATO forces. This was done by invitation, of course. From what I heard, he read the statement in French at Quebec City with Coderre at his side. So the lost in translation and Dion's poor English cannot be used as a point of order.

I am puzzled why Dion chose to read out a five paragraph release statement in Quebec City in French via a media conference? He should have done what Obama did and gave a speech at some university campus highlighting what the Liberal view of foreign policy is and how Canada should perceive itself. Note that Obama's speech at the Wilson Center was criticized by the Democratic candidates, but was praised by his supporters as a bold vision of foreign policy.

Dion could have highlighted in a speech that there is no military solution to a conflict and that it is time to get tough with Pakistan. If he wants to saber rattle, he can threaten to suspend CIDA aid to Pakistan and impose trade sanctions. These are mechanisms Canada can use to deal with this so-called problem of creating stability in Afghanistan. Don't forget about the collective security mandate of NATO, every state from Norway to Turkey has to agree to put NATO forces in Pakistan!!! This media conference creates an impression of making foreign policy on a fly after returning from Kandahar. Of course, we know the aversion of the party officials to reveal their policy ideas for fear that they will be poached by the Cons.

Steve V said...

"This media conference creates an impression of making foreign policy on a fly after returning from Kandahar."

Dion's comments came out of nowhere, whatever he meant, he can't just talk off the cuff like that. And, you're right he said NATO "forces", which is as transparent as it gets. I was waiting for Dion to flesh out his position, instead it is more clarification. I don't get it, IMHO his words were actually quite clear and direct.