Just how weird is the Tories’ new carbon-tax attack site, willyoubetricked.ca? Plenty.

Amid the faux-populist fulminations against the “cosmopolitan elites” who supposedly favour the tax (versus the jes’-plain-folks who would be hurt by it, including farmers, fishermen, cabbies and … economists), the pandering to lefty paleo-greens who find carbon taxes too market-oriented (the tax will “give polluters an unlimited license to pollute,” it claims, which is not only untrue but contrary to acres of previous Tory speechifying to the effect that “carbon is not a pollutant” — which is true), the undergraduate rhetoric (“weasel words”) and grade school humour (farting cows), it will perhaps be overlooked that the main thrust of the piece — that the carbon tax will not be revenue-neutral, as the Liberals claim, but rather is just another in a long line of sneaky tax grabs — is aimed squarely at the Conservatives’ own exposed flank.

Of the six historic examples the Tories provide (click on “Tax Tricks Timeline”), at least four happened under Conservative prime ministers: the income tax (introduced in 1917, under Robert Borden), the gas tax (1932, R. B. Bennett), the corporate income tax surtax (1987, Brian Mulroney), and — most astonishing of all — the GST (1991, Mulroney again). [UPDATE: Make that five of six: the “McGuinty health care premium” introduced by the Ontario Liberal government in 2004 was simply a revival of a tax first introduced under the Conservatives, and scrapped by a previous Liberal government. Another Conservative “health care” tax, the Fair Share Health-Care Levy introduced under Mike Harris, was never repealed, but simply became the Ontario surtax.]

Given this government’s increasingly reckless disregard for the truth, I had thought at first this showed a becoming candour, on the GST especially. That was until I read the accompanying copy.

“The GST,” it reads, or rather sneers, “was introduced as another ‘revenue-neutral’ tax that would merely replace the manufacturer’s sales tax.” Yes, that was the Conservative talking point of the day. It also happens to be the truth. Look it up. In 1989-90, the last full year of the MST, the federal government collected some $17.7-billion from the tax. That was equal to 15.3% of federal revenues, or about 2.7% of GDP. Flash forward to 2005-06, the last full year before the Harper government began cutting the GST. In that year, the tax yielded $33.0-billion. Tax grab? Hardly: in proportionate terms, that was down to 14.9% of revenues; as a share of GDP, it was also down, to 2.4%.

The notion that the GST was some sort of tax grab is one of those things that “everybody knows” that just ain’t so. Either the Tories themselves were unaware of this rather salient fact — or they knew, and preferred to pander to populist ignorance. Either way, I can’t say I’m surprised.

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  1. Buckler’s days are numbered. Sparrow too. They know it.

  2. Forgive me, but the phrase “cosmopolitan elites” creeps me out. It sounds too much like the descriptions of Jews used by certain parties before WWII.

  3. Mr. Splotchy, the voice of the CPC conscience, is really a talking turd…

  4. I love the yellow background – sort of a psyche on Dion’s track record when it comes to confidence motions

  5. I like how in the Tax Tag game, Jack Layton is represented by his moustache. Fear the ‘stache!

  6. Ah, the yellow background is more indicative of a fear by the Tories that (while they don’t know the Plan) are scared poopless that he just may have something good.

    Scared dogs are barking and attacking dogs.

    Andrew – in the US they have a publication called Media Matters – they tell the TRUTH about what politicians and media say – they investigate and bring out the true story….amazing what is left out and what truths are hidden, etc. Sounds like something you could do – or have a site for this.

    I think Canadians need it.

  7. The oil stain reminds me of South Park. I think it would be funnier if I had some dope to smoke. Maybe I can get some good stuff from the high school kids who developed this campaign for Harper and Co.

  8. Since when are Canadian politians expected to be honest? Trudeau, Mulrooney, Chretian, Harper, Dion, nope note an honestone in this bunch.

  9. I loved the website, asside from your criticism of the GST being revenue neutral. The GST was a tax grab as it was supposed to be eliminated with the deficit.
    I thought it is very well prepared and gets the point across. I laughed thoroughly especially the digs at the liberals, “do you think its easy making priorities becomes do you think its easy loading webpages.” Taxed and loving it after the rick mercer song. It will remain to see if this new hip campaign will hit home with voters or not.

  10. The anti-intellectualism of the Tory party is bizarre, considering Harper is an MA, Ian Brodie is a PhD, Tom Flanagan is a PhD, and everyone else is a lawyer. Pandering to incompetent people and stirring up fear of “elites” is a terribly dangerous strategy. As Andrew pointed out before, Economists seem to have been discredited by politicians and journalists (see GST tax cut by Tories), in favour or Joe Blow the Alberta truck driver, who, I am sure, knows everything there is to know about monetary policy and tax revenue.

  11. Hey Crusk : do you realize you just proved the very point the conservatives are making? You probably don’t see it do you? Elitism is when There is a sense of entitlement enjoyed by a group or class. I hate to tell you this but insulting Joe Blow and his Trucking Crew is perfect example of it.

  12. I’m all for not insulting the intelligent of Canadians, and that we come in a variety of colours, backgrounds and value systems. Let’s not insult someone because they don’t believe the same things we do, or didn’t get the same level of education as you did.
    However, i’m eagerly supportive that I won’t support someone who is trying to ‘dumb-down’ our political system and means of governance because it is politically ‘smart.’
    That line of thinking brought the world GWB – twice.
    So debate and argue the issue and political policy with concrete responses, not insults or cartoon characters aimed at insulting both the idea’s espouser and the listener.
    However, that line of thinking doesn’t appear to be part of the CON playbook.

  13. Great editorial Andrew. Honesty is in short supply nowadays. We knew these “Reformers” went to Ottawa hating Canada’s institutions and much of our history and/or ideals. It appears they are knowingly destroying the publics’ faith in these institutions, so they can do away with them.

    Your point about whether they actually know what they’re saying is wrong has come across my mind many a time. Do they really not believe in science – or like they like to say, “the science”? I’m a scientist (Microbiology and Computer Science), as well as a business man. I find it hard to believe a person’s belief system can be so skewed with partisan rhetoric that you won’t accept what your own top scientists, economists, and specialists tell you.

    Time and again, these “Reform-a-tories” have come out on the wrong side of an issue where there is reams of proof contrary to their own narrow opinions. Time and time again they trot out their “usual suspects” of “experts” – typically a small minority of the experts on any subject. They seem to feel putting doubt in the minds of Canadians – on every issue – allows them the gray area to operate in perpetuity.

    Good that someone like yourself has taken the time to be candid. Thanks.

  14. So now it’s considered elitist to think that an economist might be better at making monetary policy decisions than a truck driver? Is it similarly elitist for a truck-driver to think that he might know better places to stop for good food along the Trans-Canada highway than an economist?

  15. Thwim : you completely missed the point it was the insult here think about this : in favour or Joe Blow the Alberta truck driver, who, I am sure, knows everything there is to know about monetary policy and tax revenue. : now if you don’t find that not too subtly insulting to truck drivers then yes you would be an elitist because you think that only your opinions would be relevant.

  16. Wayne – think insulting people who studied, worked hard, got good jobs because they worked very hard for their degrees and pay their taxes is okay? Hmmm….?

    Don’t go to school, don’t get a degree because by God you’ll be an elitist – holy, moly how awful to be smart – not allowed -you get called names.

  17. Mulroney brought in GST @ 7% to replace the manufacturers tax which was 14ish% so it was a net savings for us poor working slobs. Correct me if I’m wrong. A tax is a tax is a tax, call it what you will. Isn’t “revenue neutral tax” a contradiction in terms? Remember Allan Rocks 2 million dollar “revenue neutral pay for itself gun registry?” How’d that work for ya? If people vote based on junk science (ie; global warming)well then they deserve what they get.

  18. The GST might have been revenue neutral but it shifted taxes from businesses to individuals and it’s quite rationale to dislike that.

    The removal of the dreaded, dastradly hidden job killing, inefficient MST produced zero price reductions, so we just paid 7% more on everything, and business pocketed the windfall.

    Why is it so hard to understand that individuals would resent giving up personal income so that manufacturers could pocket a windfall, especially since as a sector they failed to invest in R and D or even infrastructure renewal to improve their efficiency and protect jobs?

  19. Truck-drivers would be a great group to consult with about carbon taxes, they sure buy enough gas. Why do we always have to pit one group against the other?

    Even Andrew said economists would be hurt by the carbon tax. “the jes’-plain-folks who would be hurt by it, including farmers, fishermen, cabbies and … economists.”

    I still don’t understand why every problem is solved by taxing the public?

    Here’s an idea, why not go the other way in regards to finding a solution for global warming, how about making public transit in the cities — free! Who wouldn’t use that! That would go along way to cleaning up the air we breath.

  20. Sandi : you also completley missed the point as in no way was I insulting educated people in fact I am unsure as to how you stretched logic to think that I did. If I were to insult the elitist attitude I would be insulting myself as I have 1 BA and 1 BSc and 1 Masters OH! Yeah! and lest I forget I was a truck driver who paid for his education driving the truck! One last caveat : Most of the stupidest people I have ever met were very educated (were very elitist) and some of the smartest people I have ever met had very little schooling after grade 12 (were very humble people)- makes one wonder as to whether it is the humble attitude or the elitist that really determines the level of smarts in one’s life.

  21. I think the fact that the authorized agent feels that they need to make their attestation as unreadable as possible on the main page suggests something about this juvenile “campaign”.

  22. Here’s my prediction …

    In the first week that Dion lays out his plan, he is going to be challenged with a series of tough questions, for which he will be seen to be woefully unprepared.

    Dion effectively explaining and advocating something as complex as this Carbon Tax Plan is not going to happen. This guy is plainly incompetent to mediocre at just about everything a leader is supposed to do.

    At that point, Liberal back-room damage control kicks in. The new line will be a variation of what Kinsella has been saying … It’s a good plan, but it’s the wrong time to bring it in.

  23. Calgary Junkie, you do realize that you are speaking of the man who bitchslapped the Almighty Lucien Bouchard into submission over the Clarity Act, yes?

    And if the CPC has nothing to fear from Dion’s ability to sell this carbon tax, why spend thousands of dollars on an attack BEFORE the details of the proposal are released?

    I love it when Cons start believing their own spin…

  24. The only reason to attack something is if you fear it. Also, is ti just me or does the entire thing seem very, very distasteful?

  25. Poor Dion, constantly humiliated, ridiculed and underestimated. Reminds me of something I had once read.

    “the bird is small, but it’s claws are sharp”
    – Dostoyevsky

    One pundit once wrote something along the lines that anybody, even the greatest of political strategists would have a hard time being the Liberal leader right now.

  26. Sophie, no. It’s not just you.

  27. These attack ads are just a repeat of the strategy in the “Dion is not a leader” ads. I.E., define the Carbon Tax (Dion) before he does.
    The Liberals tried that with Harper, as soon as he became Canadian Alliance leader.

    It’s no big deal either way. It’s called hardball politics, which is what Harper is going to be playing from now until the end of the election campaign. There’s no “fear” here, far from it. I never sensed that Martin feared Harper either.

    BTW, whatever happened to Dion’s “Poverty Plan”–remember that ? He introduced it last November. It was supposed to be the centre piece of his election campaign. How much explaining and advocating did Dion do with that plan ? Almost zilch.

  28. Calgary Junkie,

    Just to remind you in case you forgot. Dion and Liberals are not in power, they don’t need to explain their policies until the election comes around. It’s the government’s job to explain it’s policies while it… governs.

  29. Blues Clair, Dion started the policy ball rolling with his two speeches about “taxing bad thing more and good things less”. Then we heard he was going to roll out the details over the summer.

    These ads have just speeded up the process for Dion. He has less time to do what he was going to do anyway. Harper likes surprises, and putting pressure on his opponents to act and think fast. He’s doing it again here.

  30. Calgary Junk,

    Dion looks forward to making the enviroment a central issue in the election. I’m not sure Harper feels the same.

  31. “As one Liberal activist in Ontario lamented in a letter to MPs: “Dion is the worst proponent in Canada I would choose to communicate a carbon tax. His lack of salesmanship will be exacerbated by the fact that his policy will have lots of fine print — and most people only read the headlines.”

    Read more here …

  32. “for your third pillar”
    …sorry, but I mention that any chance I can get. It’s amusing.

  33. ‘“carbon is not a pollutant” — which is true’

    Actually, if you’re low enough in the marine food chain (one or two up from plankton), it IS a pollutant. its a pH thing. But hey, close enough for rock and roll.

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