Friday, May 16, 2008

Yes we can, too

The following quote from a column yesterday on the Liberals chances in the next election,"Yes, they can win an election," might be worth keeping in mind as the debate over Dion's proposed carbon tax policy begins. It has to do with why Dion was chosen leader to begin with:
"Instead, Liberals wanted, and sensed that Canadians wanted, something different. They sensed that politics in Canada was ready for a new national challenge, something that transcended the machinations of Ottawa politics. In addition to his passion for the environment, Liberals saw in Dion a man of character and an anti-politician as an antidote to the current mode of our politics. After the sponsorship affair, Canadians needed to believe that the Liberal party was about purpose, not jockeying for partisan advantage."
Conservatives and NDP supporters will likely dismiss such sentiment as long gone wishful thinking, that was then, this is now. That Dion having to sit on his hands has forever made him damaged goods. Not surprisingly, I would respectfully disagree. Dion is still positioned to accomplish just what Herle describes in his piece. Putting forth a major national challenge, perhaps similar to Mulroney's advocacy of the free trade agreement in 1988. Casting himself as a different politician by putting forth big ideas in an era when cynicism abounds. And doing so at a fortuitous moment. If an election is to occur in the fall, the U.S. election that all Canadians will be transfixed upon will serve as a great backdrop. And if Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee, and the winds of change are blowing in a fresh, new, "yes we can" direction, then I like the dynamic in which Mr. Dion will be making the case on such a new tax shifting environmental policy.

He knows he's going to face the worst scare tactics the Conservatives have to offer. Just as the Democratic nominee will face the worst that the Republican attack machine has to offer. But Dion's clearly not afraid of that. He's been pummelled for two years now and he's still tied in the polls with Harper. So he's counting on people to do the right thing and knows he's going to live or die politically based on this plan. Yet he seems completely at ease with that choice. Listen to his comments yesterday:
"We need to make polluters pay and put every single penny back in the hands of Canadians through the right tax cuts," Dion said.

"The time has come for Canadians to pay less tax on good things, such as work, savings and investment. The time has come to put the price on waste and pollution. The time has come to do what is right, not what is easy."
But Dion rebuffed his critics, saying "Canadians have been ahead of their politicians in knowing what needs to be done to move this country forward."

He also cautioned that "Conservatives will try to confuse, mislead and scare Canadians" about the issue.
"It's a complex issue, it's not simple, but people are not simplistic. They know they are in a world that needs to change," he said.
Polls are showing that people are willing to pay in order to make a difference. A plan that is costed out and can be made easily accessible to Canadians in a campaign will make a big difference in that regard. E.g., "The average family will pay $X more per year in their typical home heating costs," and so on. Such an explanation, combined with emphasis on personal income tax cuts need to be well done.

Dion truly believes in it and is well-versed in the subject. That will make quite a difference. Combined with a latent willingness to act in the Canadian mood - and I'd include the Tim Hortons crowd in that bunch, looking out for their children and grandchildren - it's a good set of conditions in which to make the argument. This is not John Tory and the religious school funding, part II. There was absolutely no appetite for that policy in the electorate. Huge difference.

And those polls, again, also show a very unpopular Prime Minister and Conservative party to whom the majority of the Canadian people do not want to give a majority government. Let's not forget that in the bigger picture of an election, there is quite a tale to tell about Harper's Canada. They will have over a two year record and they will have to defend it. The environment, the economy, broken promises, secretive, unaccountable and controlling behaviour, extreme partisanship, incompetence, a mirror image Bush foreign policy, scandal (Cadman, Elections Canada). There's quite a treasure trove.

All those idealistic Barack Obama supporters out there who say that people want to believe again, that they want that just a remote wish for the Americans? While we're not voting in that election, and there's no Obama in the field here, in a sense we're going to get our own chance to take a leap of faith on a big idea. And we'll find out if Canadians are willing to take the leap or succumb to the swiftboating.

(H/t BCer, read his post after I wrote this. Worth a look.)