Sunday, June 08, 2008

And, The Attacks Begin

Everyone knew it was coming, and today the Conservatives have officially started their campaign to discredit Dion's tax shifting policy. I've listened to the ads, scheduled to appear right at the gas pumps, among other places. You can view them on the juvenile website, very high quality, very high signal, very typical, very grade eight.

Clearly, a pre-emptive strike, further defining the Liberal plan before it is released, getting ahead of the PR war. The timing is good, if there is one thing on people's mind today, it's rising fuel costs, to some degree a receptive audience. That said, interesting that two and a half years on, the Conservatives have yet to release one ad that is positive in nature. It does start to say something about the messenger too.

On that score, Goldstein's latest column actually has some relevance (monkey and the keyboard?). This will be the first and only time I'll quote him, apart from mocking, but he makes a good point:

The campaign, designed to reach ordinary voters directly while bypassing media and academic elites, reveals Conservative thinking.

Clearly, they're worried Dion's carbon tax, whenever he releases it, could appeal to voters concerned about global warming, particularly if the Liberal announcement is backed by environmentalists, economists and business groups stressing it will be effective and "revenue neutral," a claim the Tories mock. You don't put this much effort into attacking someone you don't think is a threat.

Finally, the Conservatives haven't been good at explaining their own plans to combat global warming.

Simply mocking Dion without credibly explaining what they'd do instead, could be their Achilles heel.

And, there it is, attacking without an alternative doesn't produce the desired response. The obvious counter, as this debate evolves, the Conservatives are going negative, because they having nothing positive to offer. The Liberals offer a serious plan, while the Conservatives take shots from the sidelines. While the Liberals can present expert opinion to support their ideas, all the Conservatives have is the spectre of trying to yell the loudest, swamping the message, like a declawed bully. I'm not arguing the attacks won't resonate, but when you consider the source, they will be viewed with some suspicion.

How this all plays out is a completely open question. The Liberals are apparently ready to release their own ads to sell the plan, ads which I hope have a more mature argument, one's that give voters a certain measure of respect, as opposed to the Treehouse flavor offered by the Cons.

The big question, obviously, just what exactly that plan will be. Here's hoping that the plan is watered down somewhat, and by that I mean, acknowledgement that the present circumstance is already doing much of what the tax was supposed to achieve. I've already posted on the rapidly changing dynamics on the consumption side, in reality we are already seeing the desired response. A few people have floated a "threshold" idea, wherein any tax only kicks in if fuels drop below a certain level, a level which MUST be well below the current price. In this way, you say to the electorate, no sense piling on now, but there is an acknowledgement that prices will only drop to a certain level. This plan had better be pragmatic, or these attacks will get more mileage than they deserve.


Anonymous said...

Dion doesn't really have to propose a plan. He just has to show up on photo-ops with Charest, McGuinty, Campbell, Doer, and say that he will support their plans. That's it.

Johnathon said...

Funny how you don't like the Cons website, yet you offer no proof it isn't true.

Dion DOES want to raise taxes on everything from food to gas to Jack laytons mustache trimmer.

Dion is going to get killed in the next election.

But in reality, I think that is what his caucus members want.

Steve V said...

"Funny how you don't like the Cons website, yet you offer no proof it isn't true."

Call me crazy, but it would be nice to have an adult conversation. If it's so "true", why do you have to resort to silliness? I mean, this is the level of debate the Cons have to offer? Very impressive, I'm sure our international partners are equally smitten.

sassy said...

Oh, this website
Registrar: Netfirms, Inc.
Registrar-no: 978850
Registrant-no: 2333671
Domaine-no: 233367
Renewal-Date: 2009/05/28
Date-Approved: 2008/05/28
Date-Modified: 2008/06/01Organization: Conservative Party of Canada
Description: Harper panics
Admin-Name: Norm Funk
Admin-Postal: #1204 - 130 Albert Street
Ottawa ON K1P 5G4 Canada
Admin-Phone: 613-755-2000

Kids will be kids

Blues Clair said...

My god those gas pump ads are creepy! North Korea style. This could be the Consevatives 'jumping the shark moment'. But I could be wrong. Sure am glad not to be in Canada right now, scary.

Anonymous said...

So...if I don't like Dion's carbon tax, but I DO want action on climate change - all i have to do is vote NDP.

Steve V said...

"So...if I don't like Dion's carbon tax, but I DO want action on climate change - all i have to do is vote NDP"

One small caveat, the NDP will never be able to implement their plan.

Mark Richard Francis said...

Cap and Trade is a good idea... but implementation is a bitch. The European Union has so far completely failed with theirs. There are simply too many loopholes, and too much voluntary compliance; otherwise, it is a red tape nightmare to implement. Also, Cap and Trade focused on big emitters fails to do anything about large, non-industry aggregate sources, such as millions of Canadians driving cars, which enables our high carbon output suburban lifestyles.

The Dion Carbon Tax Shift is straight out of the Green Party policy book: tax carbon, but reduce income taxes. People can then choose to spend their tax reduction on carbon, or to reduce their footprint. It places the onus on personal responsibility... and isn't that a Conservative mantra?

This can't be the only policy in place, though. Some sort of a Cap and Trade system should be but in place, in anticipation that there will be global commodity trading market in carbon offsets.

Anonymous said...

The NDP will have a field day on this issue. All they have to do is say that the Liberals want to address global warming by making the average person pay even MORE for home heating fuel and gas. It's all about making the "little guy" pay the price. The Tories on the other hand propose doing NOTHING.

If you are concerned about climate change and you want to see the big corporate polluters get hit with the burden of paying the price for dealing with it - the NDP is there with a catchers mitt to scoop you up!

Steve V said...


Anybody who thinks there isn't a trickle down with cap and trade is deluding themselves.

Anonymous said...

I suppose that there is also a "trickle down" when we make companies have high health and safety standards and pay a $10 minimum wage - doesn't change the fact that these are good policies.

Whether there is trickle down or not - the fact remains that the NDP will have a very simple and attractive message in the next election. I'm just talking about the politics of it.

Liberals want to make the average working person pay, the Conservatives want to do nothing and the NDP wants to go after the big corporate polluters.

Just keep repeating that over and over and over again.

Anonymous said...

The NDP environmental plan is not very strong as it only targets a fraction of the problem, it ignores the fact that industry will pass costs on to consumers and in doing so does not plan for the tax credits and shifts that are then necessary to protect low-income Canadians, and it doesn't give a high priority to acting now.

Layton gave the example of Ontario and Quebec being able to implement a cap and trade system quickly. We will see if they manage to meet their 2010 goal for implementation, but at best this timetable suggests that Canada won't have a cap and trade until two years after a government is elected which is committed to one.

The Green plan is much better. We'll see what the Liberals plan is, but Dion has hinted that, like the Green plan, it will tackle much more of the problem, address the implications for low-income Canadians, and have a component which can be implemented right away.

Calgary Junkie said...

My take on some of this:

The Conservative Party is doing most of the negative ads now, but will do a lot less during the election campaign. At that time you will see the positive, meaty policy-related stuff and the warm-and-fuzzy stuff featuring Harper's family, and the like.

The Conservative Government is doing some of the policy messaging now (anti-drug, pro-Immigration reform kind of stuff)

These tv ads will probably pay for themselves, just like the anti-Senate tv ads did.

You guys keep making the same mistakes--you don't define Dion, so we define him for you; you don't explain your Carbon Tax, so we do it for you. So now, you are reacting with this spin about how Harper is in the pocket of Big Oil.

Dion had to be proactive, get out front on this Carbon Tax and advocate, advocate, advocate. And explain, explain, explain. It would have helped if he had all the details hammered out first, before delivering his mom-and-apple-pie speeches about taxing bad things more, good things less.

Steve V said...

"So now, you are reacting with this spin about how Harper is in the pocket of Big Oil. "

That's spin? Hey, you're in Calgary, what's Harper approval rating there? Nuff said.

As for the positive stuff, that's fine and dandy, but given the huge war chest, don't you find it odd that in 2 1/2 years not one positive ad, despite all these apparent achievements. I predict the nastiest campaign we've ever seen, and I use everything we have seen to date as proof. It's not surprising, the new Conservative Party is predicated on the negative, it's never been about ideas, just reactions to what people don't like.

Calgary Junkie said...

"... don't you find it odd that in 2 1/2 years not one positive ad, despite all these apparent achievements."

It makes sense to me. The Conservative Government is using tax-payer money to do the positive ads. The Conservative Party is using donations to do the negative ads.

As to the spin re Harper and Big Oil. My point is that you won't make any more progress with that kind of rhetoric. Liberal pollster Michael Marzolini told your caucus retreat in NFLD last summer to talk more about policies. He was right.

Dion has to understand that he is auditioning for Prime Minister. One thing a PM does is advocate and explain policies. Dion talks more like an analyst.

JimmE said...

Couple of points
- Steve & the Ditto Heads have an opposition mentality - they have no positive constructive agenda
(Sorry, I forgot they like to spend Billions on no-bid, sole source defense contracts - & pay a premium for the honour)
- What passes for an agenda with Steve & the Ditto Heads is to withdraw & shrink the fed Gov.
- Steve & the Ditto Heads mush have internals that scare them $HITLE$$
- The new ad, now, must show that even amongst Steve & the Ditto Heads' core support some traction for Dion's position
- On the surface Steve & the Ditto Heads seem to have framed Dion's message - but not so fast, this may be a strategic blunder- the policy isn't out yet. Yes, this ad will
frame some of the debate, but this actually allows Dion's policy a trial balloon to remove some of the more easy to criticize bits prior to it being announced.
- Dion is not a politician in the traditional sense, all these negative personal ads may ironically work in his favor in a campaign - he will talk about policy substance & correctly
point to Steve & the Ditto Heads & say: let Steve & the Ditto Heads focus on personality, here's what I think a fed Gov. should do.

Oxford County Liberals said...


I'm curious.. has a "Carbon floor' version of the carbon tax idea that you're advocating been put into implementation or practise elsewhere, or is it just a theory of an idea that we'd be putting into affect for the firs time, if we went that route?

Steve V said...


I just thought about that, and then I saw BCL commenting too, and I think he heard the idea elsewhere. I sure hope they are considering that, because I must say, with what is happening now, the sales job has gotten a whole lot harder. If the goal is too curb consumption, I think we are seeing that in spades at the moment. The only missing element, instead of oil companies paying their share, they are actually making more profits. I really hope the Liberals tailor the plan to the present circumstance.

Anonymous said...

"It's not surprising, the new Conservative Party is predicated on the negative, it's never been about ideas, just reactions to what people don't like."

This is what you get when the Party hires Saatchi and Saatchi to do the ads for you. Same tactic that the Thatcherites used in Britain. The sad thing is that Labour got into power using the same thing.

The Grits may need to do the same. Anyone has David Axelrod's number?

Anonymous said...

WOW! Those ads are creepy. They seem like a joke. Who thought it was a good idea? It seems so juvenile.

Steve V said...


It fits nicely with their website. Let's face it, it's all they know.