Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Those Who Forget History

Are destined to remain clueless while it repeats itself

If we at the Nexus have learned anything, it's that as far as being a political commentator or historian goes, Lindsay Stewart makes a really bad actor (presumably a decent enough waiter, though).

A few days ago (while we were otherwise indisposed) Stewart decided to take aim at the recent "Stephane Dion's tax trick" ads being offered by the Conservative party:

"The Stephen Harper Party of New Canada is set to launch yet more attack ads in their permanent and constant election campaign. We've grown used to seeing the shrugging visage of hapless Liberal person-that-is-supposed-to-be-in-charge, Stephane Dion in the Con's endless efforts to blame the state of their nation on the other guys. This time the Cons have targeted the gas pump. Their new ads will be a brightly coloured blamefest, designed to take advantage of consumer anger at the spiraling price of fuel.

All of this trouser dampening and fear mongering is aimed at Dion's terrifying carbon tax proposal. You know, nothing says Conservative quite like the reek of stale urine, well, except for estrangement from the truth.

"However, Jane Taber and Craig Oliver, co-hosts of CTV's Question Period, noted that the Liberal tax -- which hasn't been formally presented yet -- rules out an additional tax on gasoline."

Details, bitches. Let loose your bladders and join the widdling chorus of Conservative he-men and women. What ever you do, don't pay any attention to the fact that it is during Conservative rule that those fearsome prices have gathered. That the Harper Conservatives are at the helm as auto sector jobs vanish and food prices sky-rocket, that means nothing. Shiny thing ADSCAM shiny thing."

One wonders precisely where to start.

Stewart wants to draw the readers' attention toward various "facts" and impel them draw some extremely dubious conclusions regarding them.

Namely, that if gas prices rise, auto sector jobs disappear and food prices rise while the Conservative party is in power, then, by golly, they simply must be to blame!

Pay no attention to the fact that rising oil and fuel prices have much more to do with increased demand for oil from China and India and its accompanying increase in speculators.

Pay no attention to the fact that the coming cuts in auto manufacturing actually have more to do with ever-increasing market competition between North American, European and Asian car makers, as well as recent dips in demand for uneconomical makes and models of cars being produced in Ontario plants. And certainly don't blame Ontario's McGuinty government for being "at the helm" in Ontario while job losses menace the population. They surely have nothing at all to do with it.

Pay no attention to the fact that the increase in food prices has more to do with increasing demand and transportation costs then any Harper government policy.

(Also pay no attention that the most striking food shortage in the world today is a shortage of rice -- which virtually no one is using for biofuels.)

Pay no attention to these facts.

"Oh yes, fellow Canadians, cower in fear before the tax and spend Liberals. Dread the party that balanced the federal budget. Fear the wicked men and women that brought us the sinister and awful budget surplus. Take solace in the doughy embrace of the bold Conservatives who have cut some taxes and presided over the decimation of the terrible surplus. Rejoice friends, soon with Conservative governance, diligence and care, we will return to the comfort and security of deficits and the slashing of ever more social programs. Infrastructure is for pussies. Why, Dion wants to tax something and all taxes are tools of the devil. He wants to take your money and give it foreign talking atheist abortion lesbians that are married.

"In addition, the carbon tax is supposed to be "revenue neutral" -- meaning revenue raised by the carbon tax is to be offset by accompanying cuts in income and other taxes, Taber said."

Don't pay any mind to the facts. We can't change tack, not now, not ever. Trust Stephen, he is large."

Ignore the fact that the Liberal party balanced the federal budget by slashing and burning public healthcare and education. Ignore the fact that the Liberal party built huge surpluses off of high taxes and the exporting benefits of a devalued Canadian dollar.

Ignore the fact that Liberals diverted billions of dollars away from gas taxes intended to help the provinces maintain infrastructure to fund their own pet projects and left provincial governments holding the bag for the maintenance of streets and highways (who, in turn, increasingly left municipalities holding the bag).

Pay no attention to these facts.

"He knows that doing anything to hamper the strip mining and carbon spewing filthy habits of his backers will destroy the economy. ADSCAM. Working cleaner, living smarter, why that's commie talk. Innovation and change will mean the end of everything as Stephen Harper knows it, the way he likes it and the way he wants to keep it. Fuck the fucking climate, screw the stupid rivers, lakes and waterways. There is money in them thar poisoned hills and ain't nothing more important than harvesting money for corporate profit. In this era, to be Conservative is divorced from conservation, let's call it unreconcilable differences shall we. Tomorrow is just a lie that keeps us from the rapture and Stephen and Stockwell are always at the ready to saddle up their dinosaurs and ride us off the cliff into the pretty, poisoned sunset."

Ignore the fact that the promise of a "revenue neutral" carbon tax (as Stewart constantly alludes to but never quite gets around to actually addressing) is far from innovative, and when one examines some basic political history, it's quite similar to promises we've heard before.

The idea is that the Liberal party will cut income taxes and "other taxes" in order to offset the cost of a carbon tax and prevent the necessity of additonal taxes on fuel.

We've heard similar promises from the Liberals before: namely, in the leadup to the 1993 federal election, when Jean Chretien promised the Liberals would abolish the critically-unpopular Goods and Services Tax. Liberal deputy leader Sheila Copps even promised to resign if the Liberals failed to do so.

As those who are familiar with Canadian political history will recall, the Liberals failed to do so, and Copps resigned -- only to immediately seek reelection in a by-election in a Liberal stronghold riding.

Flash forward 15 years in the future, and Liberal leader Stephane Dion -- the very same man who's promising a "revenue neutral" carbon tax -- has become a strident defender of the GST, not only opposing an abolition of the tax, but also opposing any cuts to it, decrying the very same "lost revenue" that Stewart laments.

Then one remembers the promised structure of the so-called "revenue neutral carbon tax" -- wherein taxes would be shifted away from income tax, and Canadians would instead be taxed for their carbon emissions -- taxes they could theoretically reduce by reducing their carbon emissions.

It would be a brilliant proposal if Canadians could actually trust the Liberals to keep such promises.

Yet as Canadians cut their emissions, reducing their tax burden, the government would eventually face billions and billions of dollars in lost revenue, facing a potential Liberal government with the very same cash flow problems they claim the Conservatives are causing for the country.

How to deal with that? Simple: shift tax receipts increasingly back toward income tax, slowly wiping out the carbon tax savings of Canadians with increased income taxes.

It's a clever tax trick, but it remains just that: a trick.

Beyond that, there's a huge question of who, precisely, will bear the burden of the carbon tax. Will it be shared equally by citizens and business, and by all sectors of the Canadian economy?

Not bloody likely. Anyone who honestly believes that the party of corporate Canada will impose an equal carbon tax burden on sectors such as the Ontario manufacturing sector need to give their head a shake. There's very little question that the Liberals very much miss the support of their corporate friends, and are eager to find a way back into their good books.

Which almost certainly means that citizens will bear a disproportionate share of this tax burden, and will likely see this manifest itself at the fuel pump, which will inevitably manifest itself in increasing costs -- and thus prices -- for everything.

Lindsay Stewart believes he can obscure the issue by never really addressing it, then dressing it up with various empty ruminations about how simply awful he believes the Harper government is.

What he doesn't seem to want to address is the fact that, when it comes down to tax-related promises, Canadians have precisely zero reason to trust the Liberal party, given the litany of their previously-broken promises.

We've also seen what they do with our tax dollars: when they aren't stealing them, wasting them on various pet projects.

It's previously been noted that the Carbon tax is "big-game politics". And it is.

Unfortunately, Stephane Dion and Lindsay Stewart are both betting on the ignorane and naivete of Canadians in playing this hand.

Only time (and an election) will tell if Canadians will call their bluff or not.

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