Sunday, March 01, 2009

Making Headway

When consistent Liberal hater Neil Waugh starts singing your praises, you begin to think the new Liberal leader is actually making some inroads. I admit to partial shock, at what I was reading:
Unlike other eastern Liberals, he has a humble side...

Ignatieff seemed to be doing a better job at defending the province's economic interests than even Premier Ed Stelmach at times...

For a guy who only made a windshield tour of Fort McMurray last summer and lived out of the country for most of his life, he's a quick read.

He certainly appears to have a better handle on things in Alberta than Canada's automaker prime minister, Stephen Harper.

Or maybe even Ed Stelmach. Then again, Iggy's probably just another cynical Liberal politician just saying the things he wants us to hear.


I've argued before, that Ignatieff's pledge to take any revenue from polluters and put the money back into the jurisdiction in question, effectively neuters the "money grab" argument, and will make an environmental plan more palatable. Waugh recognizes the distinction:
It sounds like the same kind of deal Stelmach has called a "wealth transfer" to other provinces and Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe has described as a cash cow for Quebec.

Once a Liberal, always a Liberal - until Ignatieff puts flesh on the bones of his idea.

"Albertans are rightly sensitive of any measure that appears to be an extraction device from politicians down east," he said.

Dion's Green Shift carbon tax grab didn't exactly win many friends.

"Clearly you want to recycle the revenue you get from cap and trade to incentivize green technology investment in Alberta," he added.

Sounds a lot like the Alberta government's cap-and-trade program where the cash goes into a technology fund.

"We will be watching to make sure they don't hurt Alberta," Ignatieff vowed about the federal Conservatives' carbon cap and trade dreams.

Because, unlike the happy face that Alberta Finance Minister Iris Evans was wearing last week when she announced her temporary deficit - until the oilsands industry hopefully comes roaring back next year - Ignatieff appears to have a much firmer grasp on things than the homegrown politicians.

Imagine the spectacle, a Liberal leader from Toronto having a "firmer grasp on things" than Ed Stelmach and Stephen Harper. Even when Waugh suggests cynicism, he offers a question, as though he's half convinced Ignatieff is sincere. I've seen it all now.


Oxford County Liberals said...

Well to counter that, we have the Toronto Star editorial today saying Ignatieff is trying to have it both ways:

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, too, tried to wrap himself in the maple leaf while embracing the tar sands. Ignatieff is trying to have it both ways. He is trying to defend the economic importance of the tar sands while condemning the environmental price we are paying. As to how he would square that circle, he doesn't say.. Was it a coincidence that Ignatieff's Alberta-friendly rhetoric came on the eve of a trip to the province at week's end, where he gamely described the tar sands as a matter of national unity?

The tar sands, like politicians, cannot be all things to all provinces. Ignatieff, who casts himself as a strong defender of the environment, needs to explain how he will reduce carbon emissions while expanding production.

As far as I'm concerned, they're right on all counts.

Steve V said...

Scott, you know I don't disagree. My only point here, the "courtship" might be working.

Just to add, where the heck is the Liberal Party on his appearance in Edmonton. This huge, "raucous" crowd, should come with a press release and photos? I've heard ZIP from the MSM, why isn't the party putting out some pretty imagery, to denote momentum. Seems politics 101 from here.

Tomm said...

Iggy needs to talk this way in Alberta but also in Toronto as Albertans will be paying attention.

If he does, he will get grudging respect and perhaps steal some votes. Who knows maybe an Anne McLellan might be the result.

Steve V said...


He's said the same thing in Quebec, verbatum, so it's not like Harper :)

Jim said...

Since people are slamming Iggy for a lack of specifics why doesn't he just re-embrace the "carbon budget"? (you can find the full document at the link)

Everyone has forgotten it now obviously, but it was cap-and-trade and vowed to keep all the money in the province.

I'm pretty sure Dion still planned to implement it after a carbon tax if he actually won an election and since NO ONE talked about the carbon budget in the last election, WHY would we toss out a perfectly good policy that environmentalists also praised and that Dion developed in collaboration with McCallum and McGuinty (both Ignatieff supporters)?

Doesn't make sense to me, the policy seems a perfect way to quell critics about our lack of specifics I see no reason for it to be forgotten(notably it has been DELETED from the website where it used to reside).

I still favour a carbon tax, but I also support it in combination with cap-and-trade so if we can't have the former (even though Obama is moving fwd with it) why can't we put out the latter when we have a plan ready to go?

Part of me thinks that it's just because Ignatieff is operating on the guideline of "do the absolute opposite of EVERYTHING Dion did" (the subtle slamming of Dion for "not running a national party" with his deal with May is another example).

That I think is a shame, but it's what we've seen for the most part so far. For all of Dion's faults I think there should be SOME continuity - he didn't do EVERYTHING wrong as much as some of Ignatieff's advisors might think he did.

Unknown said...

I don't remember all of it, but I recall reading the carbon budget document and liking it. On the other hand, I don't think it would be a good strategy for Ignatieff to put out specific policies now. The Conservatives and NDP will go on the attack and the Liberals don't have money to do significant advertising outside an election.

I think Ignatieff needs to let people get to know him and give some impression of his values and opinions. He is doing that. The more specific he is, even saying we will have a cap and trade or this and that, the more he will get questions asking for details. It's a fine line. You want to give people information, but you want to keep the focus on Harper's record too and also, to reveal your own policy when you know you can vigorously defend it with advertising as needed.

Also, policy will be part of the Vancouver convention, and Ignatieff has to respect that.

Oxford County Liberals said...


That's a very good and valid question you've asked.. one that others should be asking, and I hope we'll get an answer to it soon.

Unknown said...

Find me a quote from Dion or Ignatieff which was "sure against cap & trade with hard caps". The Liberals ran an election on a platform which included both a carbon tax and cap and trade. When Ignatieff starts saying he will make sure Canada never implements a carbon tax and that carbon taxes are bad, then I will agree that he is copying Layton.

Carbon taxes are the best way to go, but if they don't sell, they aren't worth anything. A perfect policy is not worth much if you can't put it into practice. The Liberals have always maintained that cap and trade is good too, and they were planning to implement one in their last platform and I expect it will be in their next platform as well.

We have already lost a lot of time. Obama hopes to have his cap and trade up in 2012. We will have to scramble to match that. Hasn't the NDP already done enough to make sure we don't do anything before then? Or are you, Jan, going to keep hammering on the fact that the Liberals tried to sell a plan which could have been implemented a whole lot quicker but were not successful?

Jim said...

Jan that's a flat out LIE. Dion ALWAYS said cap-and-trade with hard caps would follow the carbon tax but that it would take a few years to get cap-and-trade up and running while a carbon tax could be implemented now.

That's still a fact you can't deny, there is NO CHANCE a cap-and-trade system will start for at least two years and probably not 3. A carbon tax could have been in this year's budget. You have more credibility when you don't make up flagrant lies Jan.

Steve V said...

"Jan that's a flat out LIE. "

Don't even bother, let her therapist figure it out.

Jim said...

In fact Jan there were editorials written by David McGuinty (the environment critic) AFTER the Green Shift was put out there that said the Liberals still planned to implement the carbon budget which IS a cap-and-trade plan with HARD caps.

I know it's fun to make things up but you might want to check your facts before you post.

Jim said...

Oh Steve sorry I hit post before I saw what you wrote, perhaps I should listen to your advice re: Jan in the future...

Steve V said...

The Liberals were quite clear, carbon tax for the now, concurrently develop cap and trade for the future- it was never an either/or proposition. Just more mindless ramblings from WHO CARES... Click.

Steve V said...

As to what you wrote Jim, I'm with Scott. Quite curious to see if any "answers" are forthcoming.

Jim said...

Good to hear, I think a simple press question should be posed to David McGuinty:
"You were heavily involved in the drafting of the carbon budget plan that was released a couple years ago but that we didn't hear as much about since the release of the Green Shift. What is your view of that plan today? Is there anything in there you think should be changed?"

Or ask that of Michael Ignatieff, since I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't provide some input into the original plan as well.

burlivespipe said...

I think Ignatieff is being very shrewd in talking generalities and being forceful in areas where Liberals have been 'tarred' as soft. This is pre-writ time, and there must be something learned from last 'pre-writ' where we brought out a very substantial policy that became a target during the election run. Unveiling a major, complicated policy like the Green Shift prior to an election only makes it a well-worn target; the election trail talk becomes too much 'is GS good/bad, what the other parties think about GS', as opposed to 'what are the other parties policies?' The CON and NdP parties' environmental policies went virtually untouched by the media. If you unveil during the campaign, you provide less of a bullseye and more of a 'comparison' opportunity. Not to say the electorate is better served with not having a long-view of such intricate policy, just that the nature of partizan politics is for 'pile-on' when the opportunity allows.
I don't see much of what Ignatieff saying as being anti-Dion. He was loyal during the last campaign, just not as vocal/visible as we'd have liked. But there is perhaps a benefit this time in that too.

Steve V said...


You can even go one step further, delay your plan during an election. Nobody seemed to notice, amazing to watch an onslaught against one plan on the table, while you're simultaneously admitting "we'll get back to you". John Baird and Kenney, both on record, saying they didn't plan to release details during the election. Silence.

The Liberals are best to wait until a campaign, all I'm looking for now are hints.

Jim said...

So according to Tim Powers (who as a Con strategist is not exactly to be trusted and has falsely spun things before) Ignatieff said in Edmonton:

"You can't win elections if you're adding to the input costs of a farmer putting diesel into his tractor, or you're adding to the input costs of a fisherman putting diesel into his fishing boat, or a trucker transporting goods"

A cap-and-trade system with hard caps would do that as well and cost virtually the same to farmers, truckers, etc... as a carbon tax would have(obviously the costs will be passed on to consumer, and the Green Shift was a wholesale carbon tax anyway so essentially no different than selling carbon permits).

Eventually we're going to have to be honest and admit we can't have our cake and eat it too.

If we won't admit that a cap-and-trade system will have the same effects on the costs of energy, someone else will surely point it out for us.

The only alternative to prevent that is to have weak toothless targets (like Stelmach has put in place) that will zero effect and put us behind every other western nation.

If they embrace the carbon budget it means we are serious, but we have to admit that doing so would be "adding to the input costs of a farmer putting diesel into his tractor, or adding to the input costs of a fisherman putting diesel into his fishing boat, or a trucker transporting goods".

At least now we have Obama to use as cover which is a huge luxury we didn't have before.

Steve V said...

"At least now we have Obama to use as cover which is a huge luxury we didn't have before."

And, there's the rub.

Jim said...

Where was the "onslaught" against the Carbon Budget?

The fact that NONE of the other parties were able to attack it, nor was the media AND environmentalists liked it would tell you it was a pretty good plan no?

I don't see the problem releasing some specifics before the election as long as we determine through focus grouping or whatever in advance that they were policies with pretty wide appeal. Saving EVERYTHING till the election risks getting our policies drowned out.
You can propose nothing when you are the incumbent but when you are teh challenger you have to give solid reasons to vote FOR YOU.

We should still take some lessons from Harper's 2006 election performance. He released the accoutnability act and a couple other measures before the election in detail to set the stage and then went from 6-7 points behind at the beginning of the election to finishing 6 points ahead by giving solid reasons to vote FOR him.

We can't just waltz in the door we are not the incumbent and we don't yet have people's trust. We should set the stage with a few piece meal things BEFORE the election.

Jim said...

I'll add that right now the Tory strategists and Harper himself are trying to hammer home the point that we stand for nothing and have no ideas of our own. That is how they are trying to define us.

If we don't propose ANYTHING concrete before an election that definition could take hold. And while that could be reversed in a campaign, we won't be in a campaign unless our standing holds in the polls - if people see us a party without ideas they may tell pollsters they'll vote Green or NDP.

Steve V said...


I think if an election is in the offing, then you should release things piece meal in the weeks prior, particularly if you know it's widely supported policy. I want Ignatieff to flesh things out, but we are already getting some sense of direction, the numbers will come later.