Sunday, July 06, 2008

People Need to Read Dion's Green Shift Plan BEFORE They Comment

I wasn’t going to post today given other priorities. However, I am so frustrated with what it going on I had to comment on the superficial reaction I have been noticing for the Dion Green Shift Plan. Dion sure has his work cut out for him but with no need for an election until November 2009, there is enough time to get his plan understood.

I have just listened to most of Cross Country Checkup on CBC Radio One. Listening to a variety of callers to only talk about the Green Shift to gasoline and the inflationary costs it would cause make me wonder if any of those callers actually read the Green Shift Plan. Most notably fixated in this way was Gwyn Morgan, former CEO of EnCana. He said he would have agreed to a carbon tax to support Kyoto ten years ago but was silent on how vociferous the energy lobby was absolutely against Kyoto back then.

He also said the Dion $10 per tonne charge on CO2 would be inflationary but said nothing about the offsetting income tax cuts and allowances to help northerners, framers and low/fixed income earners in the Green Shift Plan. There was no comment on the use of the carbon levy to stimulate new technologies for cleaner fossil fuel extraction and refining processes and enable alternatives.

Morgan’s comments totally ignored the enormous windfall profits the energy sector is now making with $140 oil and the inflationary impact that is having on virtually everything in our lives. I found it not at all curious that he did not offer a cut in energy sector profits by suggestion a windfall tax to be used to reduce inflation, help the little guy.

Then I scanned Garth Turner’s recent and oft reviled blog post. Garth is very thorough and thoughtful in his posts on the energy issues. He is apparently placing the blame for the regionalization resentments on a certain kind of person apparently a “…self-aggrandizing, hostile, me-first, greedy, macho, selfish and balkanizing separatist….” As an Albertan I did not find anything in his recent posts objectionable or inaccurate.

I smiled when he noted in his Blog he was “chewed out by Dion” for his comments. Good for him and good for Dion. Can you imagine any of the Harper Con-Trolls actually having an independent thought, then having the courage to express it openly and then publicly admitting his leader called him up and “chewed him out?” At least the Liberal Party is prepared to accept there is a representative democracy in the land AND with free speech rights, even for its MPs.

I am thankful for the fact Turner and Dion let us know that there is a range of thought in their caucus and even disagreement within the ranks. That is health for democracy and good for politics and even better for our confidence in their suitability to govern. It shows respect differences of opinion and gives some credit to the intelligence of citizens to consider the differences and to make more informed judgments about complex public policy issues. We Canadians can not only handle disagreement within a political party, we can appreciate and respect the fact not everyone in the Liberal Caucus has to genuflect to the absolute power of the Leader on all matters and all the time - like in the case of the Harper Cons.

I actually started out the day reading Lorne Gunter's column. I occasionally agree with Lorne but I find he mostly lives in a yesteryear time warp. I understand that it seems that he just can’t help himself. His facts are often wrong in this column, for example like claiming Dion is saying Alberta and Saskatchewan is “…deserving of a big hit from his new carbon tax.” That is not the Dion position and Gunter offers no authority for this accusation. Gunter’s commentary is definitely reflective of a hostile, macho, selfish and balkanizing political position as noted by Garth Turner. His framing of the issues on climate change is so passé and tired. This positioning and issue framing is typical of the old-style hard-core Conservative ideology that has no shame in being inaccurate, dated and misleading, so long as it speaks to the base, in their Party and otherwise.

He then has the cheek to write there is no separatist movement in Alberta while admitting “Yes, there are websites for parties claiming to be separatist.” He notes that there are “odd farmers” who may paint a separatist message on his barn and “occasionally a caller to a radio talk show” may make a separatist comment. But he notes Alberta has never elected a separatist government or held a sovereign association referendum, as if the acid test to say there is "NO SEPARATIST MOVEMENT IN ALBERTA.”

So, according to Gunter, there is no separatist movement here because we Albertan’s don’t share the same cultural difficulties in Confederation as Quebec does and we have not yet had our Quiet Revolution? Well Lorne we have our Firewall guys. They are public intellectuals largely from the University of Calgary Poli-Sci Department, the so-called Calgary School. The Firewall guys included Prime Minister Stephen Harper, but that was back in the day when he cared about Alberta. They could be the seeds of a Quiet Revolution, Alberta style, don't ya think?.

There is a separatist movement in Alberta and while it is small and fragmented they have received as much at 8% of the popular vote. They elected a guy named Kesler as an MLA under the Western Canada Concept banner in the early 1980’s. Less than two years ago, one of the popular Alberta Progressive Conservative Party leadership candidates made comments that if Alberta did not get its way with Ottawa we should perhaps look at our future in Confederation.

Fomenting separatist aspirations and regional resentments in Alberta has resulted form past policies like the NEP, that was ironically agreed to by Alberta and the Lougheed government of the day. That same reality is not happening today with Dion. Like so many hard-core Conservative political myths, the facts are rarely considered nor actually talked about openly and accurately in a public discourse. They just presume that they can govern us based on creating fears and excluding and dividing us based on perceived differences.