Dion’s dithering

This is, unfortunately, indicative of the way Stéphane Dion has been leading the federal Liberal Party:

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion says he would place a price on carbon as part of his government’s commitment to environmental leadership, but he steered clear of calling for a tax, at least for now.

Mr. Dion told a forum for emerging environmental leaders Friday morning that it’s the government’s job to manage the economy and environment responsibly.

The Liberal Leader acknowledged that the concept of pricing carbon is still a work in progress for his party and the end result could be either a cap-and-trade system or a tax.

I was pretty pleased when Dion snuck up the middle to take the party leadership. It seemed as though, at last, both the major federal parties would have adult supervision. As it turns out, not so much (in either case).

Dion was elected to lead the Liberals in 2006 on a platform whose most interesting and prominent component was environmentalism: he went so far as to add it as a “third pillar” to the party’s traditional two priorities of social justice and economic growth. In addition to which, he was supposed to be both smart and stubborn, as evidenced by his handling of separatists in Quebec when he was the minister in charge of that file. Maybe Dion didn’t inspire as a leader, but look at what he did.

But it’s coming up on a year-and-a-half since then, and Dion’s party is still dithering around what the leader himself as presented as the key public-policy question of our time. I mean, no kidding it’s going to take a carbon tax or cap-and-trade, or more likely a combination of both in different sectors of the economy. This is as far as you’ve gotten?

Dion’s best bet, short of waiting for the Conservatives to self-destruct (which any party will, eventually, viz. the Liberals under Dion’s predecessor Paul Martin), is to be the guy who’s done his homework, who can make policy promises backed up by unimpeachable research and compelling argument. “Yes, we need a carbon tax, it should be this much on these commodities, here’s what that will do, these are the places where they’ve tried it, here are the experts who agree, and here are the economists who have projected the effects five, 15, 25 years out. Now, here are our cap-and-trade plans…”

If you want to be the government, you’ve got to prove you’re better than the one we have now.

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3 responses to “Dion’s dithering

  1. SIR-

    I have really appreciated reading your blog over the past few weeks. It’s obvious that you are a professional writer with solid libertarian and environmentalist leanings. What I am wondering about is why you seem to pin your environmental hopes on the LPC?

    The LPC, especially the Quebec wing and the Powercorp folks, seem to focus on winning elections based on vague promises and lies. The GST is the most obvious example. In my not so humble opinion it would seem to a rational environmentalist that supporting the CPC will far more likely result in change. The GST once again is a good example.

    As you said in your post, there are only 2 legitimate parties in Canadian federal politics. One is headed by an economist and one is headed by a sociologist (one must not strain the mind to figure out which party is right of centre and which is left). Seemingly though (especially in the Ottawa area news media), the LPC is given credibility on the environmental file, while the CPC is demonized for every move.

    It would seem to me that an economist is much more likely to come up with a cogent plan for sustainable development that a sociologist (“How do you feel about climate change?”). I was hoping that you would comment or post on the various environmental promises made by the 2 current leaders and what success they’ve had in achieving these goals.

    Thank you once again for your wonderfully written blog.

    Jon

  2. The Liberals really need to start doing their job, even if it means forcing an election. The climate change issue is frustrating, but then this morning I read this. Some seem to think this is basically the same thing the Conservatives tried in the 50’s, which was to try to bring in more skilled workers while blocking family class immigrants. I recently helped my husband to immigrate to Canada through the family class. He was just shy of meeting the points required for the skilled worker class. If the Liberals don’t stand up and vote against this…They’re not making themselves any popular with this abstaining business. You can’t do what’s expected of you by voters, can’t represent voters if you’re afraid to be the cause of an election being called. It’s cowardly.

  3. Thanks for your compliments, Jon.

    My quick answer to your question about Harper’s and Dion’s environmental records is Harper has promised moderate amounts and achieved little, while Dion has promised much and achieved substantially nothing, which is the lot of an opposition leader.

    I tend to agree with your proposition that an economist — Harper — is more likely to come up with a workable plan for sustainable development than Dion (who’s a political scientist, incidentally, not a sociologist). But to do it, he has to WANT to, and all indications to me so far are that he actually wants to do only as much as it takes to show that he’s not doing nothing.

    Neither, frankly, is a very appealing option.

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