Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Harper carbon attacks bad news for Campbell

Among all the people who didn't want a federal election, Gordon Campbell has to be one of the unhappiest.
For the next five weeks, the Harper Conservatives are going to be attacking Stephane Dion and the Liberals.
And Campbell is going to be caught in the crossfire, unable to take cover or fire back as his supposed allies deliver wounding blows.
One of the Conservatives' big targets is going to be Dion's Green Shift, and especially the proposed carbon tax.
The "tax on everything" that would "screw everyone across the country," Harper has already called it.
And that's before things got rough.
And Dion's proposal is pretty much identical to the carbon tax that Campbell promised in the throne speech and brought in July 1. Use fuels that produce greenhouse gases, and you pay - 2.8 cents a litre on gasoline, for example, rising to 7.2 cents by 2012, and more after that.
The unpopular carbon tax has already given B.C. New Democrats a big boost, without Harper's help. They support a carbon tax in principle. But not the Campbell version, in what seems a rather contrived distinction.
The tax actually makes sense. If you accept that global warming is real, greenhouse gases are a factor and that market forces matter, then a tax on fossil fuels is an incentive to reduce consumption.
But the public isn't buying it, according to the polls. They think it won't work. And they consider it a tax grab, even though the provincial government has introduced offsetting tax cuts equal to the money it will take in from the carbon tax.
Campbell is now in a weirdly vulnerable position, with Stephen Harper and Carole James ganging up on him over a critical policy.
The provincial Liberals have worked hard at getting along with Ottawa - no matter who is in power -with reasonable results.
Partly, that's pragmatic. One of Campbell's real accomplishments is getting people who are passionate Conservatives and Liberals federally to work together in one provincial party. It's no mean feat; federal elections are hard fought and the scars are lasting. Campbell inspires people to check their baggage at the door.
That might be harder this time, especially with the carbon tax as a big issue and the federal stakes so high. Things could get nasty between the Harper and Dion troops in B.C.
It looked that way in the first days of the campaign this week as Harper came to the province. The federal Conservatives had tried to avoid criticizing the Campbell carbon tax directly since he announced it.
But no more. Harper's attacks might have been directed at Dion's tax, but they drew blood from Campbell too.
It was brutal and direct. Harper effectively challenged Campbell's honesty, rejecting the claim that revenue from the B.C carbon tax is balanced by offsetting tax cuts.
"Every politician in history who wants to impose a new tax claims that it's either revenue neutral or it's temporary. It's not true," Harper said. "Everybody knows - especially in British Columbia - that that kind of a carbon tax is not revenue neutral on the average working family."
Ouch. It's rhetoric straight from a Carole James' speech. But because the accusations are coming from Harper, the claims that Campbell is not to be trusted are getting a lot more attention.
The B.C. carbon tax was already a tough sell, especially given rising energy costs this summer.
Now the Conservatives - with bags of money and a good organization - are going to spend the next five weeks trashing the idea as an irresponsible tax grab.
Which will leave Campbell with just six months to try and undo that message before the provincial campaign starts.
And, of course, just six months to encourage federal Conservative members of his coalition to swallow a tax they have been attacking with vigour.
Footnote: The campaign also quickly got stupid. On Tuesday, a controversy over a cartoon on the Conservatives' website that showed a puffin pooping on Dion threatened to overshadow policy announcements and the NDP and Conservative efforts to bar Green leader Elizabeth May from the televised debates.


The Waif said...

Campbell has responded, not surprisingly, by cancelling the fall sitting of the legislature.

How badly will this lack of accountability hurt the premier?

Declan said...

It wouldn't hurt for you to point out that Harper's comments in the media are blatant lies, but it seems nobody is willing to call him on that.

For whatever reason, it is ok for Harper to accuse people who aren't lying of being liars, while nobody is willing to point out that he is actually the one lying through his teeth.

I mean, the chart in the budget spells out the revenue neutrality in black and white - unless you think that Campbell and co. have cooked the tables in their budget doc. and the finance dept. went along with that, even though they (the Liberals) have no reason to do so and every reason in the world not to. Must be that liberal media.

But aside from pulling your punches on this one a bit, your political analysis is definitely sound as usual.

DPL said...

So we see the federal conservatives, fighting with the BC real conseratives called BC Liberals. Politics is a real blood sport but as long as these characters are fighting lets watch them arue with each other for a change. Vampbell spent a lot of time and effort sucking up to Harper and what did he get out of it? A kick in the head.

Gazetteer said...


I wish Declan would stop writing comments that are better than most peoples posts (including many of my own).....