La place to be, apparently - Macleans.ca
 

La place to be, apparently


 

I’ve been away and haven’t kept pace with Ottawa’s rhythms. (It seemed reasonable to assume Ottawa doesn’t have any rhythms.) On Wednesday night I attended Jean Charest’s speech to a Public Policy Forum dinner on Canada-EU free trade. I was invited to speak to the conference on the same issue the next day, so I had a right to a meal, but I showed up late and didn’t feel like elbowing my way into one of the guest tables, so after Charest’s impressive speech I split.

Where to eat, where to eat. I went to Metropolitain Brasserie, figuring it had to be quieter than a lot of other downtown Ottawa restaurants on a Wednesday night. Big mistake. There was some kind of fuss in the room to the right of the entrance. A large crowd listening to a speaker. And a plainclothes RCMP officer, with telltale lapel pin, stationed at the door. Ahh. Indeed, there was Stephen Harper regaling the happy crowd. I asked the restaurant’s smiling greeters what the occasion was and one of them said, “A birthday party for the Quebec minister.” I didn’t have the heart to tell her there are five Quebec ministers (four? Six? Many). I found a quiet corner and curled up with a warm beef salad and a copy of Neil Turok’s book about the universe. It wasn’t until yesterday that I learned the hubbub at Metropolitain had been a 50th-birthday party for Charest.

I did get up from my table long enough to say hi to two acquaintances. One is a former chief of staff to a Tory minister. He gave me his card and told me to call anytime, which is how I know he’s no longer a chief of staff to a Tory minister. The other was Bob Rae, who was dining with several interesting people including Madame Justice Rosalie Abella and Mr. Justice Michel Bastarache. Two days later the two Supremes would turn out to be on opposite sides of the reverse-onus ruling on the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Abella wrote for the gooey soft-liberal majority; Bastarache joined Rothstein and two others in steely law-and-order dissent. On this issue, at least, the best the Harper government can hope to do is to replace the retiring Bastarache with somebody like Bastarache — and if a case like this comes up again, to still have its heart with the dissenting minority.

This morning’s papers, incidentally, carry a couple of hints that Bob Rae has managed to make himself more popular than Michael Ignatieff in the press gallery. One hint is subtle, the other less so. My own hunch is that if Dion falls the next leader will be neither of the ex-roommates, and my strong conviction is that Dion should be allowed to lead the party into the next election (allowed? Heck, urged to hurry). But there’s this: If he falls, it will now be over this carbon-pricing thing. Not that I share the opinion of Jim Travers and others that the idea is necessarily suicidal for the Grits. But if it is… whose policy was it, before it was Dion’s?


 

La place to be, apparently

  1. That is odd… I thought Jean Charest’s birthday was on June 24. He is after all, St-Jean.

    Early celebration I suppose.

  2. Personally, I think that ‘tax shifting’ makes sense. However, my concern as someone from a very remote, rural area is that ‘tax shifting’ will only hurt my areas economy, whos mainstay is logging. I realize that 80% of Canadians live in cities with access to public transit- but what about us remaining twenty percent?

  3. Gas prices have doubled since Harper came to office. Prices have gone up 25% since February. Believe me, nobody will care about another few cents in carbon-tax on top of that, except for current/aspiring oil industry lobbyists like Kinsella.

    If Dion can propose a comprehensive tax reduction plan to go along with his carbon tax, he may not get a bump in the polls, but he won’t be dead either.

    The problem with Dion is his wholesale political ability — like Harper, he has none. Neither men are capable of motivating people to accept their point of view. So, during a campaign, it’s better to stick to the traditional and stay away from complex policy proposals.

    In answer to the Inkless question: BC Premier Campbell proposed, campaigned on, and implemented a carbon tax. So, it can be done.

  4. If he falls, it wil be because we have stuck our heads in the sand on the threat of climate change a la Harper. However, inmy opinion there is hope for the Liberals. I attend Laval, and Iam acquainted with twice the number of Liberal students then BLloc and CPC combined. You can tell an NDP student because during elections they keep quiet and mumble something about ‘loyalty’. In my opinio, whether the person is Dion, Rae, Ignatieff or Harper, the person who wins the next election will be the person who can tap into this very politicly minded demographic- now if only someone could convince us all to vote.

  5. When any politician of any stripe says he is going to change the weather by a tax, I call BS.

    Mr.wells when Harper does somthing he once says he was againts it is endless clips and ranting by the media agints Harper. When Dion does the same thing it is called bold

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080516.WBwblogolitics20080516062933/WBStory/WBwblogolitics/

    Can you see the difference?

    A carbon tax was dumb just a while back while oil was under 80 dollars a barrel. But with oil at a 120 a barrel it is a great idea now. WTF, does that make any sense?

  6. Amazing all those people stating their opinions when the “Plan” of Dion’s isn’t even out in full yet.

    And, all this wink, wink, nudge, nudge reporting going on – no one look into real issues anymore?

  7. … and just on the subject of a carbon tax, what ratio of articles is there between the politics of it : the actual benefit/effect etc.
    ie can we get less debate about the optics and more about the substance? (and this is not directedat Paul, only he is providing the forum here)

  8. There are a number of articles in the economic literature about the “double dividend” that can be created by tax shifting from carbon taxes. A simple google scholar search of the phrase revenue recycling and double dividend* (not in quotations) yields many academic papers.

    There seems to be some evidence that this kind of tax shifting can improve the efficiency of the tax system (since carbon taxes are thought to be less distortionary than income taxes). That seems to be a given under most rational assumptions.

    The exact environmental gains from a carbon tax are less clear. Depending on the other assumptions (ie: level of tax, application, price elasticities, etc) that are made the environmental gains can be negligible or quite sizable with many papers finding that there is indeed a form of double dividend created here.

    *double dividend is the term used when a carbon tax with the revenues being recycled (ie: held onto by the government and not given back to people via rebates or other direct transfers) are used to reduce other forms of taxation that are more distortionary. The double dividend means that not only is a more efficient (less distortionary) tax system achieved, but the tax also gives another dividend in terms of improvement in environmental quality (using some measure for this).

  9. What is puzzling is why Dion will want to propose something like this so far in advance of an election? He knows there will be attack ads all through the summer and fall. That’s the part of his strategic thinking — if indeed he’s capable of that — I don’t understand. Wouldn’t you want your campaign centerpiece to be unveiled during or just before the writ period?

  10. In myopinion, it is in fact part of his strategic thinking. HE knows that he’s going to cme u nder attack for it- this way, by the time of an election the attacks will be old news, an dhe will also have ahd time to defend it properly.

  11. cb,

    John Tory could answer your question.

  12. I think Wells is pointing out that a carbon tax was Iggy’s idea before Dion’s, so if that’s the policy that sinks the Liberals in the next election, it doesn’t really make sense to turn to Iggy for the next leadership.