Danielle Smith and the Wildrose Caucus, (R to L) Guy Boutilier, Heather Forsyth, Danielle Smith, Paul hinman, Rob Anderson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In an interesting twist of fate Alberta, long a stronghold for the Conservatives, is going through some family issues. Till death do us part is not the motto for conservatives today. Alberta is going through growing pains. With an influx of Canadians, of all stripes, change seems to be affecting the province as a whole. The Wildrose party has surged in popularity, but will it last? Cracks in the foundation are already apparent; with Wildrose members sounding both intolerant of immigrants and out of step with Canadian values. In some sense we can draw a comparison to the Republican Party in the United States. With forces split between what is seen as moderates, like Mitt Romney and The Tea Party elements of the Republicans. I sense that this is more of a protest vote; similar to the ADQ in Quebec. The Progressive Conservatives are holding true to the name “progressive”, but will the residents of Alberta give them another chance. With the election near Wildrose party members are under close scrutiny. Can the Wildrose Party grow into a sustainable political force? Or will they continue to bloom and show their true colours?
An interesting game of poker is taking place in Ontario and it seems that the Liberals may have the best hand. Who has the most to lose? At the moment it’s the NDP. No one wants an election and I suspect that if one is called you can kiss all of those NDP seats goodbye. Both the NDP and the Tories cannot afford an election at the moment. In a funny sense if the NDP votes against the budget I am sure the Tories will end up having to support it. The Liberals be in the best position if an election is called. So who will blink first?
Jonathan Kay raises interesting points about the carbon tax and posits that it’s actually quite a “conservative” tax. I’d like to refer readers to Kay’s article, in which he makes a number of very valid observations – apart from the fact that Stéphane Dion should be sacked, he also reminds people that conservatism is not the mean-spirited ideology that the less-than-intellectual always make it out to be:
Many people casually associate the word “conservative” with unfettered capitalism and mindless consumerism. That is a fallacy. A true conservative in the Edmund Burke mold is suspicious of any revolutionary creed that challenges the established qualities of a humane society, especially a creed — such as unbridled materialism — that corrodes family life and human spirituality.
Absolutely true. This is why a real conservative won’t be the typical frenetic Bible-thumper, because he or she has realized that a fundamentalist Christian is often no better or worse than a fundamentalist Islamist, for example.
I fully agree that Dion deserves to be sacked — not only over his Green Shift, but quite generally. He’s not cut out for politics and should be sent back to his Ivory Tower at university where he belongs (or some Marxist summer camp in Paris) – back to your real roots, Monsieur Dion!
Having said that, it was a high-profile conservative who made a very strong case for shifting taxation away from income and on to consumption: David Frum, in his excellent book Comeback: Conservatism That Can Win Again.
So, a carbon tax is actually quite a good concept in theory, one that fits right in with the green-blue environmental conservatism championed by none other than one of Canada’s greatest politicians ever, if not the greatest, Preston Manning.
Manning formed the Reform Party in 1987. His chief policy adviser was Stephen Harper, a student at the University of Calgary and now the Prime Minister of Canada. Harper designed the Reform Party’s 1988 campaign platform. The Reform Party was a combination of fiscal conservatism and populism, though aspects of social-conservatism grew, branding the party as “very right-wing.”
With all the apocalyptic warnings coming from Conservative MPs about the Liberal Green Shift plan, it is eerie how silent they have been about their own plan — especially the part of their plan that will raise energy prices for Canadians.
The Conservative government’s greenhouse gas reduction strategy is included in their document, Turning the Corner. When it comes to energy prices here’s what Turning the Corner has to say: “Our modelling suggests that Canadians can expect to bear real costs under the Regulatory Framework. For the majority of individual Canadians … these costs will be most evident in the form of higher energy prices, particularly with respect to electricity and natural gas.”
For a plan put together for political, rather than environmental or economic purposes it is rather strong. Overly timid and chooses progressivity over efficiency, but a solid plan nonetheless.
Basics of the Liberal Carbon Tax Plan
The Liberal plan is relatively straight-forward – a $40/tonne on carbon dioxide emissions, phased in over a 4 year period. This tax would replace a number of existing excise taxes on carbon based fuels. Since the existing federal gasoline tax is equivalent to the rate 42 dollars/tonne of carbon, gasoline taxes are not unchanged with this new tax.
Once fully implemented the carbon tax is expected to bring in 15 billion dollars. With this revenue, the Liberal plan is to reduce other taxes by 9 billion. The plan is to reduce both corporate tax rates (1 percent for both the regular and small business rates) and income tax rates (a 1 1/2 percent reduction in the lowest tax bracket, 1 percent reduction in each of the middle two tax brackets and no change to the top tax bracket).
The remaining 6 billion dollars is allocated to a grab-bag of tax rebates, largely aimed at low income families with children.
Strengths of the Liberal Carbon Tax Plan
There are a number of things to like about the Liberal plan.
The plan is revenue neutral, if one considers tax rebates equivalent to tax cuts. Even if you take the view that a tax rebate is a spending program in disguise (which I do), 60 percent of the revenue from the carbon tax is still allocated to tax cuts.
The two types of taxes being cut, corporate income taxes and income taxes are two of the most damaging taxes to the economy. Cutting these two taxes should largely offset the economic damage caused by the carbon tax.
Since this tax replaces a number of existing taxes, it may be possible to keep the administrative and enforcement costs of the tax relatively low.
The progressive nature of the plan and the fact that almost all of the benefits go to consumers (whereas much of the carbon tax will be paid by businesses) may make the idea of a carbon tax easier to swallow for consumers. Particularly if they realize that in the short-run the plan acts as a transfer of wealth from businesses to consumers.
Weaknesses of the Liberal Carbon Tax Plan
The plan is relatively timid – a higher carbon tax rate would allow for more dramatic cuts to corporate tax rates. The three most damaging marginal tax rates – the small business corporate rate, the regular corporate rate and the highest marginal income tax rate receive the smallest rate cuts (in the case of the top income tax bracket, it sees no cut at all). That, along with the tax rebates make the plan more economically damaging than it could have been.
It is far from an optimal plan, but as a plan designed to help win an election, it still contains a great deal of economic benefits.
Canadians who vote to re-elect the Conservative government next week will also be voting for an archly pro-copyright agenda. According to the party’s official platform released yesterday:
A re-elected Conservative government led by Stephen Harper will reintroduce federal copyright legislation that strikes the appropriate balance among the rights of musicians, artists, programmers and other creators and brings Canada’s intellectual property protection in line with that of other industrialized countries, but also protects consumers who want to access copyright works for their personal use.
We will also introduce tougher laws on counterfeiting and piracy and give our customs and law enforcement services the resources to enforce them. This will protect consumers from phoney and sometimes dangerous products that are passed off as reliable brand-name goods.
The CBC reports that the proposed legislation – which Harper’s party had planned to introduce last year but withdrew under fire – includes serious fines for illegal down-loaders and makes it a crime to circumvent DRM.
“There’s a fine line between protecting creators and a police state,” Liberal industry critic Scott Brison told CBCNews.ca at the time.
Law professor Michael Geist stopped the legislation from moving forward in December with a Facebook protest group that gathered tens of thousands of sign-ups and forced the Conservatives to retreat.
In September, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada would NOT fall into recession, but on October 6th, the TSE fell more than 1000 points and the Bank of Nova Scotia predicted “something worse than a recession” in 2009. Polls now show Harper’s judgement on the economy in doubt and Stephane Dion’s Liberal Party building real momentum.
TORONTO — Liberal Leader Stephane Dion is taking his Conservative rival to task for encouraging Canadians to take advantage of stock market opportunities created by the world economic crisis.
Dion says Prime Minister Stephen Harper is completely out of touch with the impact the financial turmoil is having on the lives of everyday Canadians.
He says Harper has flunked the first and most important test of leadership by failing to understand the fears Canadians have for their jobs and savings.
Dion is speaking to the same Toronto business audience where Harper unveiled the Conservative election platform and spoke about “buying opportunities” on the stock market the day before.
He says the Tory platform has no coherent plan to help Canada’s economy beyond meagre relief for the manufacturing and forestry sectors.
Dion says the Liberals have a solid strategy to protect people’s savings, pensions, homes and jobs.
Dion’s attack echoed almost verbatim one launched earlier today by NDP Leader Jack Layton, who assailed Harper for saying the stock market plunge presents “a lot of great buying opportunities” for investors.
“Mr. Harper said that an economic storm was no time to switch boats,” said Dion. “Well, I say, the captain of the boat is asleep at the wheel.
“For the sake of all Canadians, we need to change course, we need to change the captain, we need to change the whole crew.”
An Angus Reid survey suggests strictly on the “like-ability factor”, most Canadians would vote for Jack Layton as the next Prime Minister. The survey puts layton’s popularity rating at 36 per cent, ahead of harpers 32 per cent. But when asked who would make the best prime minister, Steven Harper remains in front.
In the latest embarrassment for the Conservative campaign, a candidate who blogged after the July beheading on a Winnipeg-bound bus that Canadians should be allowed to carry concealed handguns for protection has resigned from the Toronto Centre race.
Musings on women, gays, native protesters and hate-speech laws.
(1) Law-abiding men and women should be allowed to carry concealed handguns, saying: “If women and gays really wanted to stop being victims of hate crimes, they’d be in support of this, but judging from discussions, they’d rather be helpless and rely on government.”
(2) The end of human rights commissions and hate-speech laws.
(3) His political views were not entirely in keeping with the Conservative party
This is why Harper needs to change the focus to himself. He needs to find a better “pool” of conservative candidates.
An interesting post on The Progressive Economics Forum
Censorship in Canada
Once again, there seems to be a heavier hand in editing Statistics Canada’s releases. This morning The Daily reported that:
“Spending on research and development in the higher education sector amounted to $9.6 billion (current dollars) in the fiscal year 2006/2007.”
but there was no word on whether this was an increase or decrease from the previous period, which Statscan releases almost always have.
The year 2006/7 was the first year that the Harper government was in office. Investment in research and development is essential to increase our economy’s productivity, which hasn’t increased since the start of 2006 (and has grown at a dismal rate since 2000).
Canada has some of the most generous tax incentives for private R&D in the world, yet Canada has one of the lowest rates of investment in R&D among OECD countries thanks to both low rates of government and business investment in R&D, accoridng to Industry Canada’s Science and Technology Data tables. Canada’s investment in higher education R&D had recently been relatively good, but it looks like the current federal government may soon rectify that.
The Harper government is laying off federal scientists and forcing departments to slash their R&D budgets . It is deregulating food safety inspection and transferring or selling off federal labs to the private sector, intent on further commercialization and privatization. They eliminated the national science advisor and have instead appointed Preston Manning among others to help advise on science issues. This approach to science recently earned the Harper government scathing criticism in an editorial in Nature, one of the most respected science publications in the world.