Swift-Boating the carbon tax
The bed having been made by the NDP, the Prime Minister not only takes it but moves in and changes the locks. All summer the NDP’s axe-the-tax campaign against the BC carbon tax has played on a classic conservative anti-tax theme (to the dismay of yours truly). The BC election is not until May 2009, and who knows what will happen between now and then. In the meantime, the Tories must be thrilled to walk into BC and harvest the votes.
But with a twist. Stephen Harper is distorting the facts in a big way. He is playing on public opinion researchÂ that people think revenue neutrality is silly (that the money should instead be spent on public transit and other climate action) but twisting it by claiming that the BC carbon tax, painfully designed to be revenue neutral in order to be more politically palatable, is not. As reported in the Globe:
â€œEvery politician in history who wants to impose a new tax claims that it’s either revenue neutral or it’s temporary. It’s not true,â€ he said, adding later: â€œThe reason politicians impose a new tax is they need revenue.â€
… â€œEverybody knows â€“ especially in British Columbia â€“ that that kind of a carbon tax is not revenue neutral on the average working family,â€ Mr. Harper said.
… â€œFor British Columbians, there is a double risk that comes from the carbon tax proposal: imposing a made-in-Ottawa carbon tax on [top of] B.C.’s existing carbon tax. Canadians don’t want a new tax and British Columbians don’t want double carbon taxation.â€
The double taxation comment is another example of pure rhetoric. The federal and BC governments would in all likelihood make provisions, and if I recall correctly Campbell and Dion have said as much. But hey, if carbon taxes are bad, “double carbon taxation” is evil incarnate. Another article invoked the Fraser Institute’s tax freedom day, so we are seeing a concerted effort to paint the opposition in sneering terms of “tax-and-spend” (I literally hear Preston Manning’s voice when I say that).
The Harperites are playing a highly cynical and Republican game here. They are playing to emotion without feeling the need to be grounded in reality – the facts are what they say they are. And on this complicated issue, who in the crowd is going to argue with the bully?