Voters memories are short and even shorter when it comes to the message of corruption. Indeed after nearly twenty years of media and right wing spin insisting that politicians, political parties and the government are basically corrupt the NDP’s message is likely to achieve the response “so what else is new.” Not only that, the Libs are going to argue that Dion represents a change in direction away from big money and influence peddling toward the centrist values of the mushy middle and the restoration of technocratic public policy. Given Dion was unscathed by Gomery it is going to be hard to paint him as a corrupt insider. Indeed we suspect his unwillingness to play ball with the back room-boys in the past is why he was sparred the indignity of Gomery: he was too principled to be allowed into the inner sanctum. If the NDP hacks were smart they would go after Dion where he is vulnerable; indeed what he proclaims is his new-found cause the environment. The question should be, if Dion is so enamored with the environment why is his track record so poor in this area?
The NDP ought to be pointing this out and at the same time setting out a bold environmental plan of its own. There are lots of near term environmental initiatives that could be developed at little or no cost to business if designed right. Here is just one example. Mandatory conversion of all lighting to energy efficient sources. Estimates vary but this simple shift can realize energy savings of 15-30 percent. To make this work the government merely needs to offer right-offs valued at 125% of cost and allow them to be written off over two years. A really robust plan would extend this to the household sector by dropping the GST on all energy efficient lighting products along with a personal income tax deduction of $200. A really robust plan would create tax incentives for the development of general source LCD lighting. In the end such a program would also have the advantage of lowering energy costs to business and thus increasing their margins. There are any number of plans that could be developed which utilize existing technology and taken togeather would represent a real saavings in energy consumption. Using the tax system as incentive for compliance and a fine based enforcement system is the only way to move forward.
Politically speaking, the beauty of such a plan is that it provides both carrots and sticks and does not require provincial cooperation.