Dealing with the Conservatives’ carbon tax farce

by Aaron Wherry

Bruce Cheadle reviews the political and journalistic challenges created by the Conservatives’ carbon tax farce.

The tactic is becoming an issue for journalists in what is being called the “post-truth” era of political messaging, especially during a heated U.S. presidential race. Major publications such as the New York Times and the Atlantic Monthly are having anguished discussions, played out on their editorial pages, over how to report fairly and accurately in the face of relentless distortion campaigns that don’t pause when fact-checked.

“The media thinks that once they’ve said it once, they’re bored with it,” said pollster Allan Gregg, the chairman of Harris-Decima who once advised Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney. ”So if you’re only relying on an earned media strategy to rebut this stuff, you’re going to lose.”

For the NDP, the challenge of responding to this charge is probably the same as the challenge of responding to any charge: How do you counter an opponent’s message? Do you respond directly? In what proportion? In what ways? What options are available to you? How capable are you, financially and organizationally, of mounting a response (be it a response that directly addresses your opponent’s charge or a response that presents a different message of some kind)? The basic questions are probably the same for any political party responding to any kind of attack.

For journalists and media outlets, this is more complicated than usual. There is important context that needs to be presented to report the matter fully and accurately (although it seems really silly to identify that as a challenge). There are questions of language and policy—”carbon tax” versus “cap and trade”—to be navigated. And there are existential debates to be had about the media’s role in pursuing the truth and covering partisan politics.

In this case, I wonder if we’d be having this discussion if the issue of carbon pricing had been covered better and more exhaustively in 2008. I say that without having gone back and reviewed what was written and reported at the time. But four years later there does seem to remain a great deal of confusion around the idea.

Here, again, are the reasons why the Conservatives’ current position is farcical.




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Dealing with the Conservatives’ carbon tax farce

  1. I think Conservatives love Canada (a different, darker version of Canada). But they love power more.

    • Conservatives want us to continue using electricity, it is NDP who want to turn Canada into a darker place by limiting our power supply.

      • The lies flow so easily for your side, don’t they?

      • And the lying continues…


  2. In this case, I wonder if we’d be having this discussion if the issue of carbon pricing had been covered better and more exhaustively in 2008. I say that without having gone back and reviewed what was written and reported at the time. But four years later there does seem to remain a great deal of confusion around the idea.

    Go back further. See what the reaction was to Ignatieff floating a carbon tax during the Liberal leadership campaign. The derision came from those who only looked at the politics.

    And this continued during the 2008 election where daily horse race polls were the big show, anxiously awaited.

  3. Maybe there’s room on the head of that pin for me. Two different mechanisms
    that work toward a goal of reducing carbon emissions.Different, yes. One of these things
    is not like the other. At the most superficial level we could even check the spelling.
    Our media economists may tell us that the effect at the consumer level is this or that.
    Fine. Sometimes economists are right. But that doesn’t make two different things the same.

    So when the buckos start jabbering about NDP and proposing of carbon taxes the first
    job of everyone .. media included .. is to clearly state that no one is currently proposing
    a carbon tax. Not the NDP. No one. Instead we get a buck-and-wing tap dance that is less
    than enlightening.
    Mr. Wherry is doing his best but it’s an uphill battle against the distracting gibberish
    coming from all directions. Sad.

    • “….the first job of everyone .. media included .. is to clearly state that no one is currently proposing a carbon tax. Not the NDP. ”

      NDP 2011 Election Platform:

      We will put a price on carbon through a cap-and-trade system, which will establish hard emissions limits for Canada’s biggest polluters to ensure companies pay their environmental bills and to create an incentive for emissions reductions;

      • Tax: money paid by people for the support of government, for public works, etc. I don’t see that in a cap-and-trade system.

    • I’m not to sure about that, for me they are both (and the Conservatives approach as well) a carbon tax, i’m not sure it is any more complicated than that.

      Now the real debate should be what is the least expensive, most efficient, easiest and fairest policy to implement. In my mind a straight carbon tax with an reduction in income tax for middle to low income earners would be the best way to go about it.

  4. Go back and look at what the media covered on the day Jack Layton announced the NDP’s cap-and-trade policy – instead of covering him and the policy (May 28, 2008).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTNLmfyu06A

    Instead, the news was all about Max Bernier and the documents (and honestly just another excuse to run that picture of him and his girlfriend Julie Couillard at the swearing in).

    I think only CP ran a story about their big news conference, including environmental candidates flown in from across the country. Don Newman went so far as to accuse Layton of not having a carbon plan a few weeks later — as though if it were not covered, it had never happened.

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