Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Conservatives Failing Canadians on Economic Policy

While the NDP are throwing in the towel on environmental policy, from the very beginning, the Conservatives abandoned their principles on what they know is sound economic policy in favour of trying to win extra votes. However, Conservative disregard for good policy is only getting worse with their latest attacks on tax shifting.

Many economists are solidly behind the idea of tax shifting - it rewards work and investment, it lowers the tax burden where it matters most and it punishes behavior that has a real cost to the environment. Economists agree that this is the best way to address climate change while having sound economic policy at the same time. Conservatives may say "well we don't care what economists think!", well you sure do when it suits you - Conservatives have quoted Jack Mintz (who it seems has contributed most of the ideas of the tax shifting plan) before to defend corporate tax cuts and have used whatever economist they could find that ever criticized something Stephane Dion said and then put the economist's quotes on their website.

Yet why do Conservatives oppose tax shifting? Because in their view everything proposed by a Liberal must be condemned and because they don't really care about the environment or sound economic policy - all that matters to them is staying in power.

In the end tax shifting isn't a strictly Liberal idea though, it was proposed by an economist (not known to be a very left-wing field) and the idea of putting a price on carbon has been embraced by staunch conservatives such as Preston Manning and Andrew Coyne, not to mention the Economist magazine (known for having a right-wing bent). Not to mention the Conservatives have frequently praised Gordon Campbell as a model Premier, yet it is Campbell who has implemented a carbon tax-shifting plan (that sounds quite similar to what the Liberal policy is shaping up to be) and John Baird paid Campbell's tax shifting approach a mild compliment saying it might work in BC. There was certainly no strong criticism of the Campbell plan, yet now something similar is proposed at the federal level and Conservatives are pretending it would be end of the world? How do Conservatives explain these contradictions?

Well by distortions and dishonesty that's how. They will refer to the past and say the greenhouse gas emissions went up (even though intensity went dramatically down and the Conservative environmental plan only has intensity targets) as if somehow that discredits the plan, they will claim the policy will raise the price of gas at the pump when it won't, and they will use whatever other scare tactics they can think of. In fact the willful distortions have already started, as we have Baird saying it's a "gas tax increase" and Marvin Tweed (maybe he's next in line as their spokesman) saying it's a "new massive gas tax". I guess this is all they have.

Conservatives will continue to distract and distort, but they certainly won't try to explain why economists and other staunch conservatives back a tax shifting plan and yet they don't.

When the Liberal policy is actually presented Conservatives will have to explain why they spent so long misleading Canadians instead of actually presenting a real plan to help our economy and our environment.

In the end it will be clear that Conservatives are more interested in attacking the Liberals than putting forth sound economic policy. It was the case with the GST cuts that no one believes is sound economic policy and in the end very few Canadians have saved money off it, as retailers just increased their prices to compensate. Stupid policy but they thought it would be good to club the Liberals with. They have even risked bringing us into deficit just so they could run an ad saying Dion would raise the GST. Again more about scare mongering than saving our economy. The same is true with this their vicious opposition to a tax shifting plan.

Conservatives have always been poor economic managers, Brian Mulroney and Mike Harris being the worst recent examples, but few have been as reckless in their economic policy as this Conservative government. They spent the cupboard bare, have no plan for the economy and expect Canadians to believe we can trust them in a recession?

The Liberal record is clear - we fixed a Conservative mess and ushered in the strongest economy in decades. Canadians will see that record matched up against the Conservative one in the next election. Fiscal responsibility is now a Liberal bedrock and it never has been for Harper's Conservatives. Though it is now time to match fiscal responsibility with environmental responsibility, but it's important to do it in a way that's best for the economy.

That's what the Liberals are proposing and that's why economists and small-c conservatives support it. It's using market mechanisms to help our economy and the planet and anyone who is environmentally conscious will have MORE money in their pocket and that I think is really the bottom line for many voters.

So the message to soft Conservative voters (no point wasting time on those who don't believe in climate change and the hardcore partisans) in the next election will be clear: The Conservative party doesn't know how to manage the economy and only pretend to care about the environment. If you want solid economic managers who will use solid market mechanisms to be a world leader on combating climate change then the only party that will get the job done is the Liberal Party.

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