Friday, May 16, 2008
WHO'S PLAYING CHESS NOW?
Ah, like the fortunes that are told through the tarot cards, the Stephane Dion strategy is becoming clearer.
Floating a trial balloon isn't a new concept, but seeing an opposition party do it is fairly unique. It's typically the bailiwick of a government -- like Harper and his magically mysterious defence strategy. It allows for the party to stake claim to an issue and an action without painting itself completely into a corner. On more than a few occasions, governments have overshot their policies, heard the outcries, and quickly averted complete catastrophe. However, by attaching his flag to a carbon tax proposal, there are negative possibilities. Looking too ambitious, or appearing indecisive, for two.
Here in B.C., Gordon Campbell's sudden conversion to a carbon tax action plan has been met with more than a few howls. But the difference is distinct: Campbell is stepping into territory he never campaigned on; Dion is making the issue his own, rightly or wrongly. Like a high-wire act at the ol' circus, the public can't help but be interested in seeing this person reach his destination.
At this stage of the game Dion has little to lose. He's been defined to death through the most savage of means, his obituary was every columnist's sudoku -- so fun they'd do it twice a week and three-times on Sunday. Now, however, he's being given credit at least for having cajones.
From my uncomfortable ledge above the cheap seats, I'm beginning to see a very interesting action plan unfolding.
And it all starts around the reality that Dion is a principled, studious man of integrity. Let's step back to his decision to link unofficially with Lizzy May and the Green Party. Coming from his experience on the environment file, which involved extensive footwork to understand what is at stake, what are the issues and what is the depth of Canadians' concerns, Dion came to a crossroads. Let the Liberal Party stand merely on its record and accomplishments of the past, while relying upon the 'campaign on the left' election strategy, or create a new box outside the box.
He witnessed the breadth of the environmental movement, the drastic sea-change required to alter what he (and most scientists) sees as a global crisis, and Dion embraced a proactive risk. By standing with May and the Greens, the undercurrent among passionate, educated environmentally aware voters was that at least Dion 'gets it.' Whether they trust the Liberal party or would accept it, was another step.
That's where the current carbon tax trial balloon lifts off.
It is risky, and people can see that risk as Harper and his Schultzian henchmen try to pop it. And then there's Jack, shouting down the idea of any form of carbon tax, professing regulation as the only pill that can save the patient. He's immediately pushed away 75 per cent of the electorate and virtually every economist right there.
As NdP support bleeds to the Greens, and the CON support begins to melt around the edges with the stickiness of its own hypocrisy and lies, Dion has positioned the Liberals to a place where no other party wants to go.
Come the election -- and God, make it soon! -- those who truly worry about climate change and social justice and the Harper social conservatives, will see someone standing above the rest. He may not be charismatic, he may not be the best orator, he may not even be the most leader-like, but he will have taken a stand on a difficult but vital issue. And that is the definition of a leader.
He has worked hard to create a vision where a coalition of Canadians -- Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, NdPers and Greens -- could find some comfort from the storm. It would lead to a "We'll take those votes back now, Jack" and a "let's work together, Lizzy, and get these things done" mosiac that scares the bejeezus out of Harper and his band of half-wit blowhards.
And while Harper is counting on fooling the Canadian electorate with traps out of the Bush republican playbook, he may just be taking for granted that our nation is keenly aware of what occurred down south. It doesn't mean that we're immune to it, but it may provide more Canadians with the knowledge that the best choice isn't the one that offers free stuff and sunshine.
No, it may just mean that Harper's game of chess will turn into solitaire.