Tuesday, May 13, 2008

On consistent differences

Following up on this post, the other noteworthy (if equally misguided) attack on the NDP has come from the Cons, as Harper and company have made a sad attempt to escape the obvious effect of the parties' respective positions on gas prices. But even the examples pointed out by the Cons serve only both to point out the NDP's consistency, and to highlight the Cons' contrasting disinterest in dealing with either high gas prices or greenhouse gas emissions.

Here are the "facts" relied on by the Cons:
* According to economists, under the NDP supported Liberal Bill C-288, gas prices would rise 60% above today’s prices. Jack Layton and all NDP MPs present voted FOR this bill (Division No. 112, February 14, 2007)
* Federal NDP leader Jack Layton wants the federal government to force oil companies to rationalize price rises (Vancouver Sun, May 8, 2004).
* “Green Taxation Reforms: The NDP has emphasised the need to change existing tax laws and tax credits that artificially lower the true costs of fossil fuels and nuclear energy.” (NDP Action Plan, previously posted on NDP website)
* “Stop tilting the marketplace towards unsustainable fuel and, over four years, shift government subsidies away from unsustainable fuels towards renewable ones. The first step is to reverse the tax reductions for fossil fuel industries” (NDP Kyoto Plan, previously posted at: http://douglas.ndp.ca/kyoto/en/taxpa.php)
Let's start with the last two, which can be easily dispensed with. First, they both refer on their face to cutting subsidies and benefits to the oil and gas sector to avoid "artificial" prices of any kind. Second, that exact type of action is not only something that the Cons themselves seek to take credit for doing, but something which they've also tried to criticize the NDP for voting against (when packaged into the Cons' reactionary budgets).

Which means that the Cons are criticizing the NDP...for holding a consistent position against oil and gas subsidies which they themselves claim to share.

What about the NDP's proposal to require oil companies to "rationalize" price increases? Well, their recent campaign against high gas prices has been based on substantially the same issue. So this doesn't serve to show any inconsistency - only to emphasize that the NDP is the lone party which recognizes that regulation may be needed to keep the oil and gas industry from exploiting consumers.

It might be noted that this is in particularly stark contrast to the Cons. Harper and his minions nominally claim to be against forcing seniors to choose between "filling their refrigerators, filling their prescriptions or filling their gas tanks" - but make an exception when that's caused by "market forces" (not to mention the occasional giveaway to big pharma).

Finally, let's deal with the first point which the Cons seem to think they're making. And listing the NDP's vote on C-288 manages to make for most ridiculous Con criticism of all.

Keep in mind that C-288 required only that the federal government come up with a plan to meet Canada's Kyoto targets, making no mention of a carbon tax whatsoever. And indeed none of the opposition parties ever suggested at the time that a carbon tax of any kind should be included as part of the plan - let alone as the whole thing.

In response, it was the Cons who pretended that the required emission reductions should be reached only through a carbon tax. By excluding any other means of reducing emissions (including the regulatory strategies which they now claim to support), the Cons generated inflated numbers as to the cost of meeting our international obligations - including the same 60% number which they now seem to be relying on.

Which means that the Cons are pointing to their cherry-picked numbers - themselves dependent on the Cons' choice to rely on a carbon tax which the NDP has never supported - as evidence that the NDP has somehow contradicted itself by continuing to argue against a carbon tax now.

Once the Cons' spin is untangled, the real picture is one which the NDP will be happy to emphasize. While the Libs and Cons have established track records of failing to protect either consumers or the environment, the NDP alone can point to a consistent record of supporting both reasonable prices for Canadians and real action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Which makes it understandable that the Cons seem concerned that the NDP will successfully claim both issues for themselves.

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