Stand by for the cockfight
Stéphane Dion has established himself a very brave, valorous, principled gentleman who trusts Canadians’ intelligence. And it only took 18 months!
“No really serious attempt to use price to change behaviour over time can be complete without applying the tax to the fuel used to power most vehicles,” says The Globe and Mail‘s Jeffrey Simpson. And allowing the “greatest impact” of the carbon tax to fall “on home heating fuels … is a bit backward in a cold climate such as ours.” Nevertheless, he argues, by bravely adopting the emissions-reduction approach that everyone from the economists to the oil companies agrees is the right one, Dion has “showed himself to be a really serious politician about climate change, almost,” and Stephen Harper’s “not-at-all-serious” position on the matter has been underlined. Sadly for Dion, Simpson predicts the media “will concentrate on the political cockfight rather than examining the policy’s substance, thereby inhibiting public understanding.”
“Dion is not just offering a new approach to taxation and climate change,” the Ottawa Citizen‘s Susan Riley rhapsodizes. “He is also offering a different style of political leadership, based on respect for voters,” which is “consistent with his approach since becoming leader.” We take issue with that last part—witness Dion’s reference to “Republican-style attack ads” yesterday, continuing the Liberals’ wearisome insistence of equating Stephen Harper to George W. Bush when he’s offensive enough on his own—and we don’t think “more decisive than Paul Martin” is quite the compliment Riley intended it to be. But in principle we agree. We’ll back a more-or-lest honest, politically risky, potentially helpful policy proposal over proudly wanton stupidity any day of the week.
With “declining federal surpluses” a certainty in the near future, the Toronto Star‘s Chantal Hébert says Dion needed to find a way to finance the gamut of election promises—notably an anti-poverty campaign—that he’ll need to supplant Stephen Harper at 24 Sussex. So while it might help save the planet, she writes, “the decision to put all the Liberal eggs into the Green Shift basket was largely inspired by necessity.” He did a fine job selling the plan yesterday, she argues, but there are many nagging worries: for instance, what impact will it have on the energy-producing provinces, which may “soon be all that stands between Canada and a full-fledged recession”?
The lack of any emissions reduction targets in the plan highlights the fact that nobody really knows what a carbon tax would do, says the National Post‘s John Ivison—which is problematic given that Dion is counting on its revenue to fund other programs. After all, if carbon consumption was successfully reduced, there’d be less money coming in. There are many other unanswered questions, too, Ivison frets. Examples: will the tax replace already-existing provincial schemes or be tacked on top of it? “Does this push already-marginal manufacturing industries over the edge”? “Are the effects likely to be inflationary”? Nevertheless, Ivison writes, Dion “spoke with genuine conviction yesterday, and should be applauded for providing Canadians with a clear alternative to the current government policy—or lack [there]of.”
A Carbon tax is more transparent than cap-and-trade schemes and a “better policy” overall, says the Citizen‘s Dan Gardner, but despite Canadians’ expressed worries about climate change, he predicts the policy will be a loser. That’s because—as explained in his new book, hint hint—the unconscious mind, which is purely irrational, takes a leading role in determining our individual risk assessment and avoidance policies. It’s easy to “think of an example of terrorism,” in other words, but “not so easy” when it comes to climate change—which is why some activists speciously try to “portray terrible weather events such as Hurricane Katrina as climate change in action.”
The carbon tax is not actually a carbon tax, John Robson writes in the Citizen, because it doesn’t do anything about methane, which has just as many carbon atoms as carbon dioxide and “is said to be 23 or 30 times as bad for the environment.” We have no idea if that’s true, but we really enjoyed reading it for some reason. This, too: “Diamonds are pure carbon, but if geologists announced that Greenland had unexpectedly turned out to be one giant diamond, no one would be concerned about the implications for global warming. If it then caught fire they would, because it would start releasing greenhouse gases.”
At long last, the Globe‘s Christie Blatchford addresses the yawning chasm between her “Toronto 18” trial coverage and that of the Star‘s Thomas Walkom, who has always been skeptical of the Crown’s case and now believes it’s in tatters, in the wake of the prosecution’s hostile cross-examination of its own witness, RCMP informant Mubin Shaikh. The case is fine, Blatchford assures us. There’s plenty of evidence to corroborate Shaikh’s version of events. And the fact that the plot’s alleged ringleaders had little but a far-fetched plan, a single handgun and a group of terminally gormless apprentices to their name doesn’t mean they didn’t form a terrorist conspiracy. “The charge is participation in terrorist activities,” as the judge noted in a recent ruling, “not participation in terrorist activities on an epic scale.” (Were it not for Blatchford’s turgid mash notes to Mr. Shaikh, we’d be tempted to take her word on all this. As it stands, we don’t know what to believe.)
Junk Science Week continues at the Financial Post, where Terence Corcoran levels his opprobrium at Martin Mittelstaedt’s “scare-mongering stewardship” of the Globe‘s environmental coverage—specifically with regard to the presence of Bisphenol-A in canned food. “The 8.61 parts per billion of BPA in a can of chicken soup were made to look proportionately equivalent of two giant chunks of chicken,” Corcoran complains. “The article … was so preposterous Health Canada the next day was forced to respond: … “the average Canadian would need to consume several hundred cans of food per day to reach the tolerable levels.” It’s decidedly “odd,” he contends, that the Conservative government is so receptive to this nonsense.
It might make sense for Barack Obama to bankroll his presidential campaign entirely with private donations, John Ibbitson argues in the Globe, considering his fundraising prowess and his argument that “big-money interests hide behind public funding.” But he already said he wouldn’t, and flip-flops are bad news in politics no matter how much sense they make. “No matter how Mr. Obama spins it,” says Ibbitson, “breaking his word is exactly what he’s done.”