Greens going against grain with platform

NOVA SCOTIA - If Stephane Dion got the pooping puffin treatment from the juvenile Conservative war room, one can only imagine what bird analogy they have in store for Elizabeth May. Perhaps an albatross hanging around her neck?

Cartoonish caricatures aside, the Green party leader’s platform, unveiled in Halifax, does seem more of a hindrance to her electability than a help.

The platform’s centrepiece is a $50-a-tonne carbon tax that would hike the price of coal-fired electricity by three cents a kilowatt hour and the price at the pumps by 12 cents a litre.

Nova Scotians briefly got a taste of that kind of sticker shock at the gas station earlier this month as hurricane Ike barrelled into Texas – and they were none too pleased.

On the bright side, the Greens’ carbon tax would rake in $35 billion a year, which would then be used to lower payroll and income taxes. Companies that cut their greenhouse gas emissions would see their corporate taxes lowered by $50 a tonne – that is, if they have taxable profits – and they’d avoid the carbon tax altogether, for a total savings of $100 per tonne.

But the reality is Ms.

May is driving further and faster down a path that has already proven virtually impassable for the Liberals.

Polls show their proposed carbon tax, which would also be offset by income tax cuts, has fizzled in Atlantic Canada.

And compared to the Greens, what the Grits are pitching is a Carbon Tax Lite Cola: It would be phased in over four years, maxing out at $40 a tonne, and gasoline would be exempt.

Still, it’s a non-starter for most voters. This is not to say that the thinking behind "green shifting" is without merit.

But even if you accept Ms. May’s contention that her green plan is merely "a different way of collecting taxes," she opens herself up to attack by advocating a bona fide tax hike on another front. She would put the GST back up one percentage point to fund municipalities’ infrastructure projects (although new highway construction would be verboten).

While we agree with most economists that Stephen Harper’s two-point GST cut was the wrong approach – reducing income taxes is more effective, albeit less visible – it remains his most popular policy. It would be easier for Ms. May to run against the Fundy tides than the GST cut.

As well as shuffling the tax system, the Greens would also shift priorities, generously funding social programs and alleviating poverty with a guaranteed annual income.

And if Ms. May had her druthers, pot-smoking would be legal in Canada and poppy-growing legal in Afghanistan – as part of an effort to supply low-cost narcotics to developing countries.

In fact, one of the most abrupt about-faces would be in foreign policy.

Ms. May would redeploy our troops to tamer parts of Afghanistan, allowing them to serve as UN peacekeepers, but not as NATO soldiers. (The NATO mission is also UN-mandated, but the Greens gloss over that point.) How could our NATO allies not view this as a dereliction of duty? What a way to win friends and influence people. As the war is heats up, the Greens would rather Canada stick its head in the sand and pretend it can be won by falling back.

Out with the albatross. In with the ostrich.


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