ClimateGate news

Sunday, September 7, 2008

They're off and running

It is no surprise, but it's now official - Canadians will be heading to the polls on October 14th to elect a new federal government. Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited the Governor General early this morning and this Parliament has been dissolved.

"Between now and Oct. 14, Canadians will choose a government to look out for their interests at a time of global economic trouble," Harper told reporters on Sunday after he triggered the vote.

"They will choose between direction or uncertainty; between common sense or risky experiments; between steadiness or recklessness."
Harper consulted with all 3 opposition leaders over the past few weeks and determined that none of the opposition parties would continue to support his minority government. The Governor General obviously agreed.

Harper has been described as opportunistic, and criticized for violating his own law that fixed election dates. The criticism is unfounded as the law provides for just such a situation where a minority government can no longer function. The opposition put the final nail in the coffin of this Parliament by indicating their lack of confidence in the Harper government in their recent meetings with the Prime Minister.

I expect Harper to focus the debate on Stéphane (the current leader of the Liberal Party) Dion's plan to introduce a new carbon tax, under their "Green Shift" proposal, described by conservatives as the "Green Shaft".

I t is usually describe on this page as Dion's "shifty green carbon tax", designed not to benefit the environment but to shift wealth from the energy rich provinces of the west to the rest of Canada (i.e. Ontario and Quebec). One Liberal MP even described it as a Green Anti-Poverty Plan.

Whatever you call it, this proposed carbon tax represents the single largest tax grab in Canadian history. And it's popularity with voters is not what M. Dion would hope.
When Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion announced his Green Shift scheme three months ago, he assured Canadians that “every single penny” extracted from consumers by his new carbon tax would be returned in the form of income-tax cuts or subsidies for “going green” — incentives for everything from home-insulation upgrades to gas-guzzler trade-ins. Mr. Dion also insisted his plan was “revenue neutral”: It wouldn’t raise the total amount of tax money taken in by Ottawa every year, but merely would “shift” the existing burden from income to emission taxes.

This seems more than a little dubious. If the plan were so great for consumers already, why did Mr. Dion feel the need this week to add almost $1-billion in annual subsidies for farmers, truckers and fishermen to offset their anticipated losses?

Moreover, if his scheme is truly “revenue neutral,” where is this new money to come from -- except through higher income or sales taxes on Canadian families or companies, which would blow the strategy out of the realm of “shift” and into the sphere of “shaft”?

As with any all-gain, no-pain promise from a politician, this one is too good to be true. Among Canadians, that was Green Shift’s problem from the start: Few could be convinced that Mr. Dion’s eco-friendly dream could be achieved at zero cost.
The campaigns have already begun and M. Dion is going to find his shifty green carbon tax a tough sell to voters. Expect him to be very critical of Stephen Harper to throw attention away from his big tax grab. Plus Dion is not widely popular in his home province of Quebec and raising taxes on energy will not help him improve there.

The Conservatives will surely focus on Dion's weak leadership and his deadly carbon tax. Couple that with Stephen Harper's consistently strong ratings on leadership and the economy and that should bring the Tories back into power after October 14th.

It's going to be interesting.

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