About 100 days ago, Canada’s federal Liberals appeared to be making progress.
They’d just dumped unpopular party leader Stephane Dion and replaced him with a slightly more charismatic egghead, Michael Ignatieff.
The party was wisely distancing itself from its failed carbon tax proposal and hoping to steal away some Conservative votes among the electorate as the economy worsened.
That was then, and now is now.
Now, though it flopped with voters during last fall’s federal election, the carbon tax is popping up among resolutions to be debated later this month at a Liberal convention.
That’s the case, even though recent opinion polls show support for costly environmental initiatives is falling among Canadians facing what may well be the worse economic recession in decades.
It makes one wonder if the Liberals have lost their minds.
According to The Canadian Press, “One resolution, proposed by the Quebec wing of the party, calls on a Liberal government to unconditionally commit to meeting the Kyoto Protocol targets, enacting legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that would include ‘establishing a carbon tax, a cap and trade system or a combination of both.’ ”
Kyoto? Is there anyone in this country who still believes greenhouse gas targets associated with that agreement could possibly be reached in Canada without ruining our economy?
Another Grit proposal calls on a Liberal government to consider “all mechanisms of investment, incentive and taxation” to combat global warming and stimulate sustainable economic growth.
Uh-huh. How would that be financed? With higher taxes and more debt? Yikes!
Fortunately, for the Liberals, it’s possible they’ve now got a party leader who is smart enough to save them from themselves.
Though he was the first prominent Liberal to champion a carbon tax, Ignatieff has disavowed the concept since taking over the party.
Perhaps he realizes promoting a major tax grab during a severe economic downturn would be political suicide.
It’s telling that even Greenpeace recognizes the $600 for every man, woman and child in Alberta that Premier Ed Stelmach wants to spend on highly suspect carbon-capture technology is a complete waste of money.
The Vegreville farmer apparently thinks he can hoodwink the world into thinking there is no dirty oil coming out of the oilsands if he simply diverts the critics’ attention with an expensive green undertaking.
In the long run, such a public relations stunt is unlikely to work (just ask National Geographic magazine), and neither will the federal Liberals’ proposed carbon tax.
Not surprisingly, British Columbia New Democratic Party Leader Carole James is promising to kill B.C.’s carbon tax, which was announced in that province’s 2008 budget.
Voters, suffering as they are in the current recession, simply don’t want more taxes.
Stelmach may eventually learn that when and if he raises the education portion of property taxes here in Alberta.
As for the federal Liberals, their best hope is to put their faith in Iggy.
He once foolishly believed in a carbon tax, but today’s he’s a changed man.
He has learned his lesson, but can his party keep up with him?
Lee Giles is an Advocate editor.