It might have been better, indeed, to have talked up the income tax cuts first — to present the plan as an income tax cut, financed by an environmental levy, rather than as a 'revenue neutral' carbon tax. Some such shift in emphasis is still possible, simply by front-loading the income tax cuts — that is, by making the package 'revenue negative' in the early years. It is sensible policy to start with a very low rate of carbon tax, giving consumers and industry time to adjust to the much higher rates they will know are coming in the long run. At the same time, there is probably more room in the budget than the Tories are letting on to cut income taxes.
Well, starting with low rates may result in leaving them low forever, as it would mean summoning a another act of political Will to raise them. But what about this:
Dion's promise is that, if the average Canadian is going to pay an extra $1,000 to for example heat their home, they will get $1,000 in income tax cuts. Why not have the tax shift kick in immediately after the income tax cheques have been delivered for the year in question? So Canadians face the shift with money in hand, as it were?
In any case, a good read from the Conservative Guy that Knows Math.