Friday, June 20, 2008

Sifting Through the Shift Reviews

The headlines range from "Dion Delivers" to "The Great Carbon Swindle". In the Star, Chantal Hebert's story runs a “Dion Election Platform Built on Carbon” headline – I hope not, because he could wind up paying a lot of taxes on it if that’s the case. And while Hebert is not quite ready to phone up Cherniak for a membership in the Stephane Dion fan club, she does call his speech “his best public performance to date as leader”.

The unabashedly pro-Liberal Globe & Mail describes the plan as "daring and perhaps foolhardy" in a mostly negative editorial. Jeffrey Simpson is more bullish on the idea, proclaiming "bravo to the brave!"

Over in the Post, John Ivison takes a "propane tank is half full" approach, in a thumbs down review. He also either leaks the Conservatives' "cap and trade policy" or is as confused by all the different plans floating around as everyone else.

The Canwest story describes Harper as "uncharacteristically emotional as his voice rose to condemn Dion's plan". So now we know the two things the PM feels passionately about – hockey and high gas prices.

The Toronto Sun editorial calls it “too good to be true”…somehow I don’t think they meant that as a compliment.

Alberta politicians show great restraint in not actually saying the letters "NEP", although they allude to it. The columnists out west are unable to maintain the same self-restraint. Neither is the Prime Minister.

Coyne makes some valid points on this plan's revenue non-neutrality, but the crux of it is he would have rather seen rich people got the tax breaks. Maybe that makes some economic sense, but politically? This thing is hard enough to sell on its own, without it being spun as a reverse-Robin Hood scheme.

Wells points out all the beer and popcorn which can be bought with the proposed $350 a year child tax credit and advises the grits to avoid making this a debate about revenue neutrality. Given that the Tories appear intent on making this all about revenue neutrality, that's a pretty good sign the Liberals should be focusing on something else (like the "make polluters pay" principle).

Radwanski is glad that Dion is talking about something policy related, even if it's not exactly a "set-the-world-on-fire" (and tax the CO2 created from that fire?) policy. I agree. If the next election is about leadership, Dion will lose - so making it about policy isn't a bad strategy...unless that policy is deathly unpopular (see: faith-based schools, funding of).

Kinsella says it isn't a "total disaster", and links to a Liberal promotional video that plays upon the desires of Canadians for a bold, national plan to fight climate change.




Libloggers generally think this is the greatest thing since the tax on sliced bread, and the Blogging Tories are too busy thinking about spanking senators to really notice it.


As for my take? It’s a good policy – most environmentalists and economists will tell you that. It’s also a fair policy since it puts a realistic price on a negative externality. Under this plan, some people would be better off and some would be worse off, despite what the hyper-partisans on both sides will argue. I don’t have a house or a car, and blogging isn’t an overly CO2 intensive hobby, so I suspect I’d gain – but other people will lose and some industries will be hit hard. And, yes, although Dion will dance around the issue, the price of gas will go up – duh. But people will be getting a lot of cash back to make up for it and gas should be more expensive.

I think it’s debatable how much this will actually affect energy-consumption habits; people still drive despite a massive spike in gas prices and there aren’t really a lot of alternatives to home heating fuels. That said, putting a price on emissions acts as an incentive for alternative energy sources, and rising heating bills makes conserving energy and retrofitting homes more cost-effective.

So, yeah, it’s something we should be doing. Politically-speaking, I’m not very high on it, but when politics in this country has turned into little more than schoolyard name calling, it’s nice to see politicians actually putting real ideas out there.

Labels:

46 Comments:

  • Really, what is up with Harper? As you mention, he was said to be uncharacteristically emotional. He first said the plan was "insane", then he said it was "crazy" (several times) and now he says "it will actually screw everyone". Is Harper's vocabulary really limited to that of an adolescent or is he channeling Oily or did he blow a gasket?

    By Anonymous catherine, at 6:47 PM  

  • Again, I will never, ever buy the LPC as an environmentally friendly party. They did nothing but fuck around while talking tonnes of total B.S. But Dion? Yes. He's always been sincere and thoughtful.

    I'm totally confused on the effectiveness of this plan, over-whelmed by dueling statistics and arguments. But Dion is putting his money where his mouth is (more than other Liberals can do on this file), and I'm 100% supportive of him taking a stand and showing where his passions lie. This is a great step, and to me, it shows bold willingness to lead. I hope it pays off -- an Opposition willing to take risks and present policy is an effective Opposition.

    I pretty much agree with all your points here.

    By Anonymous jason bo green, at 7:31 PM  

  • Oil lobby told Stevie "Mr. Bungles" Harper to jump. He asked how high. They said, "Okay, Steve, make it known you're vewy, vewy, angwy, chasing that wascally Wiberal"...

    Looks like Alberta Oil Inc. is calling in some "IOUs". Harper is probably seeing this as a nail in the coffin of his attempts to sneak in a few more seats in Ontario and Queeeebec. He is going to be made to look like a stooly (stool?) of Big Oil - and most sane Canadians will see right through it.

    It could also be that the man who can never display any emotion was asked by Laureen and his acting coach to feign anger and shock... He may have been practicing in the mirror all morning folks, so lay off the "poor guy", will ya? LOL...

    This is what happens when you elect someone who hasn't been schooled in the world of politics, world affairs, debate, pleasant discourse, etc. We now know why he despises the "elite" so much... You know, those intelligent folks who went to school to broaden their minds with liberal arts and sciences. Those folks who KNOW how to act in the international milieu, or if, perchance, they happen into the role of Prime Minister of this great land...

    Then again, why would he care? He thinks we're a third-rate Northern European power... or some equally denigrating BS like that...

    Surprise, surprise, Mr. Anti-Canada looks like a clown when he's in charge of the country he'd rather dissemble.

    By Blogger WesternGrit, at 8:02 PM  

  • Catherine - you may not like Harper's words, but at least you can understand what he's saying. Dion may be intelligent and may have good ideas, but he has to be able to get them across.

    As for Harper's choice of words, he is speaking like the average Canadian.

    As far as I'm concerned, Harper is right. This will screw up the country.

    Liberals complain if he doesn't show emotion, then you complain when he does.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:04 PM  

  • Anonymous said...

    "As far as I'm concerned, Harper is right. This will screw up the country."

    Screw up the country... OH PLEASE... what a load.

    By Blogger MERBOY, at 10:38 PM  

  • Is Dion trying to be the dean of the faculty of environmental studies

    or the PM of Canada.

    He comes to power talking nothing but green issues,

    takes a powder on every major issue since then,

    then finally pipes up again, and it's on.....you guessed it, the one and only green issue.

    The epitome of arrogance is to assume that YOUR pet issue, is the only issue important to every other Canadian.

    At first I thought the Libs would be out of power for three, maybe four years.

    Now a decade seems more likely.

    By Anonymous chachi r cola, at 12:49 AM  

  • If the Liberals don't watch out non of this might matter...

    If they support that spanking bill that's what everyone will be talking about. Its much less complicated and people are passionate about how they should be able to raise their child.

    By Blogger me dere robert, at 8:20 AM  

  • chachi r cola said...

    "The epitome of arrogance is to assume that YOUR pet issue, is the only issue important to every other Canadian."

    The epitome of stupidity is to assume that when a party releases a policy it's their entire platform.

    By Blogger MERBOY, at 9:41 AM  

  • Are you concerned at all that global warming stopped ten years ago and the planet is rapidly cooling ? That sunspot measurements are so low that we could be, despite increasing CO2, on the verge of long term cool Minimum period?

    Let's give credit to the Transnational Environmental Industry for a really good PR campaign, but the truth is leaking out despite the ever crazier stories (Seismic activity caused by global warming!!) All the scientists who jumped the shark to keep the research grants flowing and the trips to conferences in Bali happening are increasingly being exposed for selling out science to Enviro-religion.

    Even the narrow minded IPCC is sheepishly admitting their models aren't working and the cool trend might last another 20-30 years. Slowly but surly, parliamentarians in the other countries like the UK and Australia have shown the moral courage to expose the Global Warming scam as a scam, as bad science - really non-science because "Climate Modeling" actually ignores the field data

    So is it a good idea to base your party's election platform on solving a problem that doesn't exist ?

    By Blogger Fred . . ., at 10:22 AM  

  • fred... I am constantly amazed at how non-scientists (such as yourself, I assume) are so adept at identifying "bad science".

    By Anonymous Ian, at 12:32 PM  

  • On a related sidenote Dan, I thought you may find this interesting -- more provincial than federal, but it's something Dion could play to his advantage, I believe:

    Canada puts breaks on electric cars

    By Anonymous jason bo green, at 2:22 PM  

  • Fred,

    I'm totally uncommitted to the idea of global warming -- I'm skeptical, which means I don't know "Yes" *or* "No".

    However, pollution and smog and reliance on dictatorship-tapped oil are all the motivations I've ever needed. I think we need better options.

    By Anonymous jason bo green, at 2:25 PM  

  • I've spoken with a few friends who identify themselves as lifelong Liberals, who say they cannot vote in favour of Dion's plan.

    All Canadians love the environment, whether Liberal, Conservative, NDP, or Green. But Dion's tax is just not the right way to go.

    By Blogger paul.obeda@, at 7:03 PM  

  • paul.obeda@ said...

    "All Canadians love the environment, whether Liberal, Conservative, NDP, or Green. But Dion's tax is just not the right way to go."

    So Paul if all these supposed friends of yours love the environment... which party's plan do they support?

    The other two parties are pushing Cap + Trade which also results in increased costs for consumers... just without the offsets offered by the Green Shift.

    By Blogger MERBOY, at 7:07 PM  

  • "And, yes, although Dion will dance around the issue, the price of gas will go up – duh"

    Well, no it wont - the current gas tax is being used as part of the new carbon tax.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:12 PM  

  • Westerngrit, I'd like to borrow your tin-foil stetson some day. The carbon tax won't increase the price of gas, it will raise the price of jet fuel, propane, kerosene, home heating oil, coal and diesel.

    These are not the core products big oil sells (plus they can always sell more on world markets) - the main losers are not oil companies they are lower middle class people that don't get big tax breaks and have higher costs.

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 9:06 PM  

  • How is this different than the Specified Gas Emitters Regulation in Alberta, that requires a $15/tonne of CO2 in excess of a baseline be paid into a climate change technology fund ? I realize neither are in place, and the the revenue streams go different places, in terms of pricing an externality and affecting market behaviour...?

    And if we're going to go down that road, how are the affects really different that what the Tories have planned for 2010 with a similar scheme?

    By Blogger matt, at 1:33 AM  

  • "The other two parties are pushing Cap + Trade which also results in increased costs for consumers... just without the offsets offered by the Green Shift."

    That would actually depend on what the actual cap and trade scheme would look like. If it offered an intial auctioning of all credits (rather than a distribution based on past emissions) then the government would have money to cut taxes once it knew how much money it collected from the auction. They would have the added advantage of knowing what the final GHG emissions would be. The question is whether either of the other two parties are willing to go there.

    Also, the Liberals are going to have to decide what they are going to do about the carbon taxes in BC and Quebec. If it would ever look like Dion is going to win, it is likely Alberta and Saskatchewan would request that they would be allowed to implement an equivalent provincial carbon tax (in place of the federal tax) that would allow them to ensure all carbon tax revenue is kept within their province (which they would likely dedicate to tax cuts or spending as they see fit).

    Since the whole point of the exercise is to price carbon, could Dion really refuse? And if he agreed what would that do to the numbers in the Liberal Green Shift?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:54 AM  

  • Well done; I think you nailed it. All this is supposed to do is take a negative externality and add a price to it. That's it. People who use disproportionate amounts of carbon-based energy have been indirectly subsidized compared to those who aren't, and this is a way of dealing with that problem.

    As for the politics of it? Well, it's not hard to sell global warming during the summer. And it manages to bring out the best and worst in the policy wonks leading the parties: the best of Dion in his bravery on important issues, and the worst of Harper in his near-psychotic loathing of anything that smacks of redistribution.

    If this proves even mildly popular, an already-stressed Stephen Harper could have a meltdown. And THAT would be fun to watch.

    By Blogger Demosthenes, at 3:37 AM  

  • One other thing. Watch these spaces closely. The Conservatives are well-known for using bloggers and commentators as proxies. The more hysterical the reaction on progressive blogs like this one, the better the indicator that Harper's getting closer to blowing his top.

    By Blogger Demosthenes, at 3:40 AM  

  • Demosthenes - get some sleep, you're slipping into paranoia.

    By Anonymous jarrid, at 8:54 AM  

  • there aren’t really a lot of alternatives to home heating fuels

    Oh, I don't know about that. As natural gas goes up in price, geothermal is looking better and better (and there are at least two companies in my area that install the systems now. Just wait a couple of years for the market to take off.)

    By Blogger Greg, at 9:11 AM  

  • i think this will continuosly increase from time to time.

    hanep - Belajar SEO

    By Blogger BlogBersahaja, at 10:49 AM  

  • Good all around post.

    By Blogger Darryl, at 11:26 AM  

  • Well, Dion has essentially made this plan about revenue neutrality, hasn't he? I don't know how he can back away from it now. It's part of the design of the plan, and you can bet that the Conservatives will keep attacking it's lack of revenue neutrality, even if Dion stops talking about it.

    Making polluters pay? You mean all of us, right?

    I just think that, from the beginning, Dion has been way too cute with this plan.

    It's too complicated and it raises too many questions.

    Then again, I think he's done this out of desperation, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised that it doesn't make a lot of sense.

    By Blogger Dennis (Second Thots), at 11:41 AM  

  • Anyone else out there think it's odd that Google's news aggregation site Google News isn't showing anything about the Green Shift under Canada stories?

    http://news.google.ca >> Canada

    I was under the impression that stories most commented on in the media would be listed... and I'm pretty sure there's more media talk about The Green Shift (pro + con) than half of the stories they have listed in the Canada section.

    By Blogger MERBOY, at 12:47 PM  

  • Why no mention of Kyoto obligations in this plan ?

    By Blogger Bill D. Cat, at 12:53 PM  

  • Bill D. Cat

    If Dion abandons Kyoto, I'll consider voting for him next election. Canada got snookered signing on to Kyoto. We're past that now anyhow. Look at Lorrie Goldstein's article on National Newswatch to see just how screwed up the Kyoto accord really was.

    By Anonymous harold, at 1:59 PM  

  • I hope that this will be third time lucky for dion.

    First, he became a minister and showed what he could do. Second, he became opposition leader and showed what he could do. Hopefully, he gets elected on his pet topic and actually succeeds.

    A reverse of the Peter Principle.

    By Blogger JimTan, at 2:09 PM  

  • Harold ,
    It would be nice if he was upfront on his intentions regarding Kyoto . The ONLY way we meet our obligations is buying credits from the usual suspects .

    By Blogger Bill D. Cat, at 2:21 PM  

  • that's a pretty good sign the Liberals should be focusing on something else (like the "make polluters pay" principle).

    Yep, that's the ticket!

    My neighbour and his wife have 3-4 vehicles parked in their driveway at all times, and two rather large boats parked on the street. I'm sure they'll vote for such a plan.

    His pool heating gas bill is about the same as my monthly house heating bill.

    By Blogger Möbius, at 6:22 PM  

  • Screw up the country... OH PLEASE... what a load.

    Yeah, you should always use the LPC strategy, of it being "Un-Canadian".

    By Blogger Möbius, at 6:25 PM  

  • anon - Gas won't be taxed, but oil companies will be...obviously some of the costs would be passed on to consummers.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 6:52 PM  

  • bill d - He hasn't made a big deal about it, but I think Dion has said several times that Kyoto is no longer achievable (due to innaction on Harper's part).

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 6:54 PM  

  • (due to innaction on Harper's part).

    Heh.
    ...... as far as being achievable , all it takes is money , the whole point of the exercise anyways , no ?

    By Blogger Bill D. Cat, at 8:14 PM  

  • CG:

    Oil companies will not be taxed. Their products will be.

    http://www.canadabusiness.ca/servlet/ContentServer?cid=1081944212134&lang=en&pagename=CBSC_FE%2Fdisplay&c=Regs

    So basically, the appropriate tax for the product will be collected at the point where the wholesaler (the oil company) sells the specific product to the distributor (your local natural gas or heating oil distribution company, or when it changes hand from the big pipeline to the power plant).

    So there will be an additional 'tax' on the specific commodity being sold by the oil company (not on the oil company's general revenue)

    By Blogger Ivan, at 8:32 PM  

  • One interesting framing angle - the Liberals seem to be framing this from an individual perspective (hence their calculator): how much will I get, how can I reduce my emissions.

    But do Canadians vote based on their individual circumstances, or rather on their regional circumstances. If I stand to gain individually, while the auto plant closes, a policy it is hardly in my interest.

    Incidentally, the economic voting literature (eg. Nadeau and Blais - who have co-published with Dion) on Canada finds marked improvements by switching from national to provincial indicators. I would suspect that an indicator like performance of major exports might predict outcomes better than other variables.

    The question is - outside of Quebec, Vancouver and Toronto, who actually gains from this policy?

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 8:30 AM  

  • He hasn't made a big deal about it, but I think Dion has said several times that Kyoto is no longer achievable (due to innaction on Harper's part).


    Uhhh.... I don't know even know where to begin on this. Harper et al are not on board, it's true, but the real fault here lies purely with the (federal) Liberals.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:13 AM  

  • Sorry, was me.

    By Anonymous jason bo green, at 10:14 AM  

  • Anonymous said...

    "Uhhh.... I don't know even know where to begin on this. Harper et al are not on board, it's true, but the real fault here lies purely with the (federal) Liberals."

    I've never quite understood how previous inaction on the part of any government of any party is somehow an excuse to do nothing now.

    The choice is clear... continue to do nothing with Harper... or attempt to make a difference with Dion.

    By Blogger MERBOY, at 10:31 AM  

  • "I've never quite understood how previous inaction on the part of any government of any party is somehow an excuse to do nothing now."

    Keep fighting that strawman. He never said he wanted to do nothing, he was complaining about Liberals who blame their failures on the environment file on Harper.

    "The choice is clear... continue to do nothing with Harper... or attempt to make a difference with Dion."

    I'm not sure this is the level of debate that favours the Liberals. First, most people know that the Tories are at least doing something, maybe not enough, but something. Second, which argument do you think is going to resonate better with high gas prices and a potential recession in Central Canada: Liberals accusing Harper of destroying the environment or the Tories accusing Dion of destroying the economy? The Liberals would be better served by raising the tone of the debate. Given the rhetoric coming out the other side I suspect that will be difficult.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:54 PM  

  • As much as Dion and some in the media think an upcoming election will be about the environment, you can be sure that the Tories are going to make it about leadership.

    They'll have their own version of a cap and trade to rebut Dion's plan. More importantly, they'll accuse Dion of coming up with the plan to save his own leadership, and point to his own record in government and opposition.

    You can have the best policy in the world (which this carbon plan isn't). But if people don't have any faith in a leader's ability to formulate it properly, and implement it successfully, then it ain't worth the piece of paper it's written on.

    By Blogger Dennis (Second Thots), at 2:08 PM  

  • Well, the Tories are certainly going to try to make it about leadership. Their various proxies (and their unwitting henchmen) certainly would like it.

    But here's the problem. If Dion is out in front of Harper on a key issue like this, actually taking risks for a cause that he really believes in...

    ...whereas Harper whines and curses about how everybody's gonna get "screwed", after a session that was marked by rootless inaction and a smorgasboard of scandal...

    ...who's going to look like the "leader", exactly?

    jarrid: I realize that as someone who only posts down-the-line conservative talking points you're probably beyond help, but "Harper's Team" was perfectly candid about his use of bloggers as proxies. Sorry, but at least a few of your buddies are sock puppets.

    (If you aren't one yourself.)

    By Blogger Demosthenes, at 5:28 PM  

  • Is this a strong "leadership" issue with him? In involves a direct reversal from what he campaigned on, and came shortly after Rae became firmly entrenched in caucus. Is also whacks of stupidity that they didn't do internal polling, focus groups, etc.

    (the only poll that tested this sort of question got immensely favourable responses by framing it in terms of "rewarding Canadians who are environmentally friendly").

    PS: I really want to see a Harper-Dion debate.

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 6:18 PM  

  • I've never quite understood how previous inaction on the part of any government of any party is somehow an excuse to do nothing now.

    It isn't any excuse at all. But it's silly for Dan to put federal inaction solely in Harper's corner. It's just a talking point that denies Liberal accountability under Chretien/Martin's time in office.

    No different from Tories doing nothing but blaming Liberals - Merboy doesn't seem to able to see that similarity between the two parties, though. Oh well - I can see it plainly enough for both of us.

    PS: I really want to see a Harper-Dion debate.

    I do, too. Dion should have called an election if he wanted one so badly. Harper has very weak points (even outside of the environment) to be exploited... Trudeau (or Mulroney, or Chretien) could be chewing him to pieces right now.

    By Anonymous jason bo green, at 9:09 AM  

  • He never said he wanted to do nothing, he was complaining about Liberals who blame their failures on the environment file on Harper.

    Exactly. Thanks, Anon.

    (BTW this one tiny instance does not lower my opinion of Dan in any way)

    By Anonymous jason bo green, at 9:12 AM  

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