Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Liberal's Political Hand: Policy

Atlantic Accord: The Atlantic Accord is good short term politics, terrible long term politics and even worse policy. Judging by all available evidence the Harper Williams feud will likely mean a Liberal sweep of Newfoundland. In this respect it without a doubt good short term politics. However, the absurdity of not including oil revenues as part of the equalization calculations is really beyond description. One can only wonder what kind of firestorm political and otherwise would be set off, if Alberta were to ask for similar deal.

Kyoto Accord: The Conservatives announced that the targets set under the Kyoto protocol are unattainable. The opposition parties disagree and there will be a lot of righteous indignation heard from them over this. The thing is, though, the targets are unattainable. Canada is not going to meet the 2012 Kyoto targets without buying emission credits and this just will not sell domestically. That is just the half off it. So long as Kyoto is the focus, the question will arise as to why Canada is not going to meet its targets and this will allow the Conservatives to offer up Liberal inaction as the reason why. There is no use going to war over something that is glaring false and the Liberals would do well to move on. Indeed, what the Liberals need to do is to focus the debate on how the various parties plan to reduce carbon emissions going forward. The Liberals have a plan, the semblance of a plan anyway, and the Conservatives have potential political piƱata known as intensity based emissions. Call into question the effectiveness of the Conservative plan and then sit back and watch as environmentalists, academics, pundits and yes bloggers break it into a million pieces. Under intense scrutiny, I give such a plan no more than month and half, maybe two. As for the other parties, the Bloc’s reason for being means it is no position to offer up a plan and the NDP poise no realistic challenge to the Conservatives. Whether they have a good plan or not is moot. The NDP will not win the next election. The underlying message is thus this. Only the Liberals are both able and willing to tackle global warming and the Liberals will be in a position to commit Canada to the second round of Kyoto talks.

Early childhood education: The problem with the Liberals early childhood education was that it was not universal. As a result, the more the Liberals talked up the need for such a program the more inadequate and lackluster their proposal appeared and the attractive the Conservatives universal baby bonus became. Indeed many voters hedged their bets. They figured that a $1200 bird in their hand was better than 15% chance of nailing two in the bush. If the Liberals want to capture the imagination of Canadians by again promising an national early childhood education program they better make sure that they are able to deliver universal program and that they are able to deliver and all at once.

Afghanistan: Until recently the Liberals did not even have any decent Afghan talking points. The childish and silly “its their turn” has at long last morphed into something much more weighty. It has become the following: If other NATO countries are unwilling to share the economic, political, and military costs of deploying in the South, the mission is doomed. Either way, Canada will abandon its military mission in the South under a Liberal government in 2009. Either because someone else has assumed the burden or no one has and the mission is doomed to fail. However the policy is yet to catch up to their talking points. Liberals are still hedging their bets and have yet to commit to pulling Canadian troops out of Kandahar province by 2009. The party is playing semantics and seems willing to sanction a deal with the Conservatives that would see Canadian troops stay in Kandahar, but not in a non combat role, as if this is distinction with difference. Such a policy might not have immediate short term implications, but the party should note that should it sanction a longer stay in Kandahar, no matter what role, the party base, especially what is left of it in Quebec, will never forgive them.

Kelowna Accord: I do not have anything positive to say about the Kelowna Accord. It is just more money thrown after bad. The root cause of native poverty is not a lack of government money, but can rather be sourced back to the emphasis placed on communal property to exclusion of private property and manner by which government monies are distributed by the bands. That said, the fact that Kelowna Accord does nothing to address the underlying causes of Native poverty does not mean that Native poverty is any the less real and any effort to fight poverty, however superficially, is usually welcomed by the public. Furthermore, there is political payoff to pursuing a policy that has been agreed upon by all the principle players.

“Deep” Corporate Tax Cuts: A small reduction, such as the one the Conservatives are suggesting, will do just fine thank you very much. The Canadian corporate earnings are higher than anywhere else in the industrialized world and cost of doing business in Canada is cheaper than in Britain, the US, Italy, Germany, Japan, France. The promise of corporate tax cuts is nothing new for the Liberals. Beginning in 2000 the Liberals cut the corporate tax rate by 8%. That said, the optics of such a cut look better in 2007 than they did in 2005 for two reasons. One, the dollar is real concern and two the Liberals have rolled out much more effective talking points this time around. Indeed, Dion all but short circuited Layton's most likely line of attack.
"Some will say that a cut in corporate taxes is a right wing policy. I’m sure my friend Jack Layton will say this. But to believe this is to believe that Sweden, with its low corporate tax rate, is the hot bed of neo-conservatism while the United States, with its very high corporate tax rate, is a socialist paradise – or to quote Stephen Harper when he described Canada – “a second tier socialistic country”. A low corporate tax rate is not a right wing policy or a left wing policy. It is a sound policy."

All and all, should the Liberals force an election anytime they would not exactly be playing with the strongest hand, both from a policy perspective and from political perspective.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you. Dion has been quite secretive with regards to policy. No red books, no propositions, no contracts with the Canadian people.

Atlantic Accord: Dion accepted it, he lives with it.

Kyoto: Dion can go with Iggy's carbon tax. Otherwise, he will have to sell the emission targets idea on the campaign trail. However, his focus cannot be on these targets alone.

Early childhood education: The Grits are now noted for creating major programs and not funding them properly. I prefer enacting policies that would set a goal ie. cutting poverty rates by one-third by 2015.

Afghanistan: It is now time to pursue benchmarks. Dion may need to be bold and suggest that all troops must leave this country by 2009. This limits our traditional peacekeeping role in places such as Darfur.

Kelowna Accord: This will be Paul Martin's failed legacy. I would prefer to focus on land claim issues and make sure that situations such as Caledonia gets resolved instead of allowing it to fester.

Deep Corporate Tax Cuts: I prefer income distribution not through taxing corporations but by imposing a Solidarity Tax on Wealth.

Of course, there is my pet topic: electoral reform.

Koby said...

I think there are many in the party that believe that all that needs to be done is a little tweaking. I do not share this view. If the party goes into the next election with more of the same plus a few solid but unspectacular policies, the Liberals will loose and they loose badly.

Abdul-Rahim said...

Good call on the ECE program. The Liberal's really shouldn't talk too much about Afghanistan, considering that they really dropped the ball before.

MarkCh said...

The problem is not so much that Dion has no policy, as that the policies he does have are mostly bogus - not just bad, but in many cases completely false and unachievable. As you say, the Liberals will never go anywhere until they, like you, realize this and decide to change.

Koby said...

Did you read the post Markch? However much I dislike the Atlantic Accord, and the Kelowna Accord they are not “bogus” or “false” or “unachievable”. The same goes for “deep” corporate tax cuts. Indeed, the Liberals have in past introduced “deep” corporate tax cuts. There is nothing to believe that the Liberals could and would make good on this promise. As for Kyoto, Canada can still meet its targets under the Liberal plan and you would know this is bothered to read it. The Liberals have always maintained that they would buy carbon credits to make up for any short fall. Do I like this plan? No I think buying carbon credits from other countries is retarded. That said, it very much real and not “false”. As for the Liberals early childhood education plan, the problem is not that the targets are “unachievable” but that even if met will not even begin to solve the problem. By the way, the Conservative plan to create 125,000 child care space by offering tax breaks to companies that set up day cares has created 0 spaces to date and that is according to the government’s own numbers. That should really come as no surprise. Such a regime was based on a Mike Harris plan that also did nothing. Now that is what I call a “false” and “bogus” plan with “unachievable” targets. targets.