Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Duncan Cameron nicely sums up the choice again facing Michael Ignatieff:
The best the Liberal leader can hope for is that the combined efforts of the three opposition parties will result in the defeat of enough Conservatives, that the NDP and the Liberals together could form a government by defeating the Conservatives on the speech from the throne following the election. A coalition government with more combined Liberals and NDP than Conservatives is what Harper fears most, and not only because he would he no longer be prime minister. After losing office, his tenure as Conservative party leader would likely end as well.

Upon becoming Liberal leader, Ignatieff rejected the option of forming a government with the NDP. If he wants to avoid a career change, Ignatieff has to understand that he will only become prime minister as leader of a coalition government, and act accordingly.
- But as Brian Topp notes in commenting on the Libs' about-faces on corporate taxes, pensions and climate change, the problem may be that Ignatieff is underestimating the general public at his own peril:
What are we to make of Mr. Ignatieff’s sudden embrace of Mr. Layton’s policies – policies he went to most extraordinary lengths to prevent from being implemented, while voting only months ago to support their opposites under Mr. Harper?

The answer is that Mr. Ignatieff, like many of his sort, apparently holds the people of Canada in contempt.

Mr. Ignatieff therefore feels safe placing a bet that most Canadians don’t follow or understand federal politics or policies. And that he therefore won’t be held accountable for his record as a principal opponent of the policies he now passionately advocates – for the moment – and as the principal enabler of Conservative policies that pull in the precisely opposite direction.
- Meanwhile, Alice crunches the numbers to determine what Canadian political parties spend on fund-raising, noting in particular how much the Cons spend to rack up their superficially-impressive totals (which are of course largely subject to public reimbursement):
The Conservatives had 112,184 contributors in 2008, and 101,385 of them in 2009. This means they spent $71.07 per contributor in 2009, up from $64.67 in 2008, to raise on average $175-190/head. And it's the gross contributions that get the tax credit. Wow.
- The Star makes the case as to why any link between corporate tax cuts and economic outcomes is tenuous at best:
(A)ll things being equal businesses might well locate where taxes are lowest. But all things aren’t equal and never have been. Corporations set down roots for all sorts of reasons and most have little to do with tax levels. They come to Canada because of our highly trained workforce, access to major markets, sophisticated communications, lack of corruption, quality social services and more.

If corporate taxes were all that mattered, Ireland with its rate of 12.5 per cent would still be booming. No one would do business in Scandinavia, where taxes remain high. In the United States, where corporate taxes vary enormously from state to state, companies would be flocking to zero-tax areas like Nevada and Wyoming. Curiously, they aren’t.

It’s also not clear that lower corporate taxes necessarily lead to more jobs. The evidence on that is decidedly mixed. Other measures, such as spending on infrastructure or cuts to personal income taxes, may help create as many or more jobs.
- And finally, Murray Dobbin rightly points out that the current focus on corporate taxes should provide a golden opportunity for the NDP:
Here is the opening the NDP could use to take on the issue those close to the party know they want to lead on: the need for tax increases to meet the revenue needs for all the things Canadians say they want. The caucus is eager but the party staff grows peaky at the mere thought -- understandably. There are, so far, no civil society voices engaging the public on the subject, and legitimizing it, a fact that will go down in history as the social and labour movements' biggest failure of the era.

But now it's out there. Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society -- and people know it. When asked if they could be assured revenue from a tax increase would go to any number of public goods -- education, childcare, reducing poverty -- two-thirds to three-quarters of Canadians say they would be willing to pay higher taxes. Its one of the many contradictions facing progressive politicians: people no longer trust government as it is, but know the importance of government as it could be.

The latter is the base upon which the NDP must build if it is to make a breakthrough in the next election -- which it must achieve if it is going to confront the intransigent Michael Ignatieff with the need for an accord or coalition government.

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