What's on the immigrant voter's mind

Stéphane Dion announced a comprehensive immigration policy today at the Shiang Garden restaurant in Richmond, B.C. It was a classic platform pitch, delivered in a classic campaign venue: a big room of round tables packed with Chinese Canadians, traditionally reliable Liberal voters, supplied with pots of tea and little paper Canadian flags.

But before Dion made his entry, I asked a few people at the back of the room what they were interested in hearing about. And from my tiny, unscientific sample… not a single mention of immigration policy.

There were plenty of questions, though, about the Green Shift. Would it mean double taxation when piled on top of the B.C. provincial government’s carbon tax? Would it mean higher prices when you fill up your car?

The local media seemed to know what’s on people’s minds. At Dion’s post-speech news conference, their questions focused on exactly these points. In answering them, Dion got a chance to repeat that he would not boost the current federal gasoline excise tax, and hoped to harmonize his tax shift with the B.C. carbon tax. (In fact, Dion argues the province’s policy and his plan don’t overlap as much as many assume, so that should not be a big problem.)

He blamed “the propaganda of the Conservatives” for confusion about his policy. I wonder, though. It seems obvious that most people didn’t pay any attention to the details when Dion unveiled the Green Shift last spring. It’s hardly surprising if now—as voters begin to ponder what is, after all, a plan to impose more tax on fossil fuels—many assume that would mean gas at the pumps, too. Getting past that predictable misunderstanding is a communications challenge, the importance of which the Liberals appear to have badly underestimated.

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