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Saturday, September 06, 2008

Deconstructing “Tories hammer Professor Dion on ‘car pool’ confusion”

In what is surely a sign of things to come, the Conservative Party today issued their first negative attack of the federal election campaign.

In my post, “Tories hammer Professor Dion on ‘car pool’ confusion,” Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre pounces on a comment made by Liberal leader Stephane Dion that seems to suggest that the “out-of-touch” professor – Quebec-based professor -- doesn’t know what carpooling is:

“‘What is a car pool?’ he asked organizers, who enlightened him. ‘Oh that’s good. I’m never alone in my car.’”  (Saskatoon StarPhoenix, August 25, 2008)

In response to this attack, the self-described “progressive immigrant with annoying views,” blogger Dr. Dawg, wrote “Sounds to me like Dion merely didn't know the English expression for covoiturage. Trust that little squirt Poilievre to make a smelly, steaming mountain out of a molehill.”

Dr. Dawg is no doubt right. Does anyone really think Dion, a man who named his dog Kyoto, doesn’t know what carpooling is?

This criticism by Dr. Dawg prompted me to take a closer look at this press release and what Poilievre is calling the “first gaffe of the Dion campaign.” Here’s my deconstruction:

First, if professors are “out-of-touch,” what does that say about former University of Calgary professor Stephen Harper?

Harper has only ever had a political and academic career, which might make him very qualified to govern, but it hardly puts him “in touch” with average Canadians. Harper was a Reform Party MP from 1993-1997; he worked with the National Citizens Coalition from 1997-2002; and, in 2002, he returned to conservative politics by beating Stockwell Day in the Canadian Alliance leadership campaign. And, of course, he was a guest lecturer at the University of Calgary.

That’s not exactly your typical working class resume.

Poilievre said “It is a long voyage from the top of Dion’s ivory tower to the day-to-day lives of real Canadians, but you would think he would at least make an effort. He loves talking about new carbon taxes and grand environmental theories, but when it comes to practical environmental solutions he doesn’t have a clue.”

The last time a left-of-centre contender for national office recommended a "practical environmental solution," he was mocked mercilessly by the right. Western Standard readers may recall Barack Obama’s suggestion that Americans monitor their tire pressure as a way to conserve fuel. John McCain’s attack team thought the idea was positively comical. Tire pressure – like carpooling, presumably – is not an answer to our energy crisis, or the global warming crisis, cried Republicans.

And let’s not forget that the Conservatives are not advocating “practical environmental solutions” like carpooling. The Conservative Party website states: “For the first time ever, industry will be forced by law to meet tough emission reduction targets.”

Is it less offensive to make criminals out of industrialists for emitting a harmless gas than it is to advocate a carbon tax? I don’t think so. It is also not a practical solution to global warming to drive clean Canadian industries to the Developing World to avoid “tough emission reduction targets” at home. (Our former publisher, Ezra Levant, makes this point very well in his must-read bestseller Fight Kyoto.)

Besides, what’s so bad about a carbon tax? Don’t get me wrong, taxation is theft – and a tax designed to engineer society and distort normal economic behaviour is offensive, but this type of tax is not foreign to conservatives. In a recent op-ed, former Reform Party leader Preston Manning wrote “How to compensate those involved in conserving and providing ecological goods and services and to penalize (perhaps by taxing) those whose practices damage the environment is a policy challenge that urgently needs to be addressed...” Manning, like Dion, is talking about “grand environmental theories.” He might even be supporting a carbon tax.

Taxation as a tool for social engineering is also not foreign to big “c” Conservatives. Gordon O'Connor, Minister of National Revenue, in an August 29, 2008 press release said:

“Taxing tobacco products at a high level is an important element of the government's health strategy to discourage smoking among Canadians.”

I guess using the tax system to punish smokers is OK. But using the tax system to punish polluters is “out-of-touch” and one of those “grand environmental theories.”

(I don’t support the Tory tobacco tax or the proposed Liberal carbon tax, for the record.)

The press release also states that “Dion Liberals opposed the Conservative’s Transit Tax Pass which makes it more affordable for everyday Canadians to take public transit to work.” Sure -- and the Reform Party, in an effort lead by Jason Kenney (now a Conservative MP), opposed an NDP private members bill that would have made public transit costs tax deductible way back in 2001.

Poilievre also points out in the press release that “The Canadian Taxpayer Federation...revealed that, as a cabinet minister, Dion’s chauffeur billed taxpayers $14,225 in 98 separate expenses for limousine trips between Gatineau and Montreal (CTF News Release, February 22nd, 2007).” (The CTF also revealed that the Tories have spent $8.8-billion since June in pre-election vote buying.)

If Dion’s “driving” habits are fair game, so are the PM’s. In the last federal election, NDP Leader Jack Layton was upset about Harper’s “SUV-heavy motorcade.” My guess is that nothing will change this go round. SUVs, after all, are very practical.

This entire press release is full of disingenuous statements from a party that is trying desperately to keep green votes away from the Liberals. I actually hope the Conservatives are successful in doing this. It’s just a shame that they intend on using this kind of misinformation and cheap rhetoric before the writ is even dropped.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on September 6, 2008 in Canadian Conservative Politics | Permalink


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Tracked on 2008-09-17 7:50:29 AM


Sorry but they appear to be conservative in name only. They are all welfare state collectivists, as evidenced by the proposed tax on tobacco. Of course this is good news for black marketeers. Canada is in dire need of a true conservative, the Margaret Thachter kind.

Posted by: Alain | 2008-09-06 9:16:37 PM

This is great, Matthew. Excellent commentary.

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2008-09-07 11:41:33 PM

As I wrote above, I think that this sort of thing is the key to truly kicking Dion's ass. He doesn't communicate well in English and a constant stream of attacks is likely to cause him to make errors and, in general, to exhaust him and to make his English worse than it already is.

Posted by: Adam Yoshida | 2008-09-08 1:15:05 AM

"Dr. Dawg is no doubt right. Does anyone really think Dion, a man who named his dog Kyoto, doesn’t know what carpooling is?"
~Matthew Johnston

Do you mean the Stephane Dion who eats hot dogs with a fork and knife, that Stephane Dion?

Yeah, I really think Dion, a man who named his dog Kyoto, didn’t know what carpooling was.

What does the Kyoto Protocol have to do with car pooling

The Kyoto Protocol is about ALL Canadians parking their cars and never driving them ever again.

Posted by: Speller | 2008-09-08 1:47:57 AM

Your appetite for war, in all its forms, is different than mine, Adam.

By the way, criticising Dion’s less than perfect English would have been more honest than suggesting a man immersed in the environmental movement didn’t know what carpooling is. The Liberals always made a point of Preston’s French language limitations.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-09-08 9:23:47 AM

"Oh that’s good. I’m never alone in my car.’” (Saskatoon StarPhoenix, August 25, 2008)"
~Stephane Dion

Not, "Oui, in French we call it covoiturage."

No, Stephane Dion did NOT know what car pooling is.


Kyoto is about wealth transfer and destroying western economies, NOT pollution or the climate.

Posted by: Speller | 2008-09-09 7:02:43 AM

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