Kinsella's recent post on Dion's carbon tax proposal has made more than a few waves. You can find it here. I thought I would juxtapose it with an analysis by Canadian climate scientist Simon Donner (click on link for the entire piece):
Is there a better time to redirect federal tax code to stress fuels, rather than income? The signals are all pointing in that direction. Cars are outselling trucks and SUVs for the first time in years. Goldman Sachs reported this week that oil could reach $150 to $200 a barrel. Public transit usage is on the rise. A carbon tax on transportation and heating fuels would only further nudge our economy towards higher energy efficiency and lower per capita greenhouse gas emissions. Most importantly, even if 100% revenue neutral the tax will allow the government the political room to direct revenues to programs to further invest in energy efficiency, renewable energy and new technologies.
As for the politics: evidence from the US primaries, where Hillary Clinton's obvious pandering over a gas tax holiday appears to have sunk what was left of her presidential campaign, [suggests] that people do appreciate honest on the complex issues of today. Dion is in the strange position of being seen by Canadians as "weak, uninspiring and unintelligible" but still more likable than PM Stephen Harper. Voters across the spectrum might just respect Dion more for making seemingly risky and groundbreaking political move of pushing for a carbon tax.
I can't say that reading Warren's piece didn't stoke some doubts in me. His profession, after all, is political strategy, so if he says an idea is crap you have to give the opinion some weight. But I wonder if he isn't working from a political play book that's a few years out of date. For example, I don't believe for one minute that talking environmental issues tags you as an lefty urbanite. We can all see what's happening to our arctic, and I think Canadians are beginning to understand this as a security issue (maybe our most important security issue), not just a matter of saving a few cute polar bears.
Furthermore, I rather think the cry of "too complex for the Canadian people" lets people like Warren off the hook as strategists. If a political party is developing an agricultural policy, for example, everyone involved in the production of that policy (from wonks to communicators) is expected to know enough about it to push the policy and counter the attacks. AGW as a political issue, though, is genuinely new, and I have a feeling alot of the resistance to the Carbon Tax proposal is about teaching old dogs new tricks. Its, like, another thing to learn... Well, tough nuts. From this day forward political types are going to have to start boning up on Carbon Markets and cloud feedbacks, and will be expected to know as much about that as they do about the history of The Wheat Board (or whatever). Simply accepting the Tory political spin that this will drive up fuel prices, as Warren does in spite of the fact that all Dion's pronouncements on the matter have made clear that the tax will not apply to gasoline, doesn't cut it. Its lazy. Its giving up before the fight has begun.
And just to rephrase Mr. Donner's last bit: we've got all sorts of people within the Liberal Party (Warren among them) saying "The party can't run away forever! Let's got to an election campaign!", but without really say much about what the Libs positive platform is supposed to be. Now that some (fairly bold) policy is starting to emerge, they're running away from the policy! Well, what then is the policy to be? We'll bring gas prices down? Nobody will believe that, and it can't be done! Or how about promising daycare for all? But, how many times have they done that already?