Liberal leader Stephane Dion was making the rounds in Edmonton on Monday promoting the carbon tax formally known as the Green Shift. He had a 45 minute closed door session with Mayor Mandel which according to Mandel Mayor left him with more questions than answers, and afterwards Dion ducked reporters claiming no time due to scheduling issues. Later in the evening Dion held a town hall style meeting where he answered questions about his carbon tax proposal among others.
I happened to have some free time this evening so I thought I would go and listen to the leader of the loyal opposition speak.
Here is my honest take, that will end up being way to long by the time I write it all down, but read on if you wish and if you were there feel free to drop in a comment.
We arrived early to the Polish Hall to be guaranteed of decent seating, but it turned out not to be an issue as there were plenty of seats open throughout the even. I heard someone use the number 400, but I think closer to 300 would be more accurate, still a good turnout by any standards for a Liberal in the west.
Before the event started and while I was waiting patiently in my seat being stared at by the hundreds of posters of Dion that were stuck up on the walls, I did hear an interesting comment from a local LPC organizer who referred to Jennifer Wright's company, and rightful owner of the Green Shift name, as " an environmental crap company". Just a friendly reminder not to get in the way of the big red machine in their quest for power I guess.
Dion arrived a fashionably 15 minutes late and the usual introductions were made. A couple of points; my friend whispered a great piano player joke to me when Tommy Banks was introduced that I cannot repeat here, and while they were calling out the names of local Liberal candidates and they were running up onto the stage to be beside Dion; I noticed that a few were missing when their names were called. I wished I had been paying more attention as to who was not there and who was not, but thought it interesting that all of them would not be there standing in solidarity with Dion.
Dion initial speech contained many of the same well used lines we have all heard in the past and was very heavy on how Albertans would benefit and how we must show the world we care. It was remarkably short and I give him full marks for getting to the floor for questions as soon as possible. Dion's English has improved a lot in my opinion and only a couple of times when he got a bit riled up did he have some difficulty, and I did manage to learn a new word tonight from Dion; "inventicity."
The questions were, as I expected, quite varied, but in my opinion there were no real hardballs thrown towards Dion on this night. I will get to the more serious ones near the end along with how they were spun, but first some others of note.
There was the 8yr old? kid (the comment "plant" was overheard from the chairs a few rows behind me, LPC supporters BTW) who asked about the future.
We had the guy who claimed that the oil he invented made his old Pontiac get 118 miles per gallon (this apparently could be confirmed by a Green Party candidate), but he was cut off by the moderator after he rambled on for too long. Thank you Senator.
Someone asked if the Dion would remove the GST on wind turbines, and couple of others were pushing geo thermal.
One older lady was asking for Dion to remove Premier Stelmach from power, and what Liberal event would be complete without someone calling PM Harper an evil dictator; interestingly enough he complained about the Liberal media strategy. I wanted to cry out call Krista Erickson at the CBC but the good voice in my head stopped me.
There was only one question relating to heath care that I can remember; it dealt with nursing home standards, which is a provincial responsibility, and there was one question about child care where Dion committed to Dryden like childcare plan. Where he is going to come up with the 20 billion for that is any ones guess, but that is for another day.
There was a question from an older fellow asking Dion if he had ever looked at the other side of the issue. I heard the word 'denier' whispered at least twice while he was speaking, and one young lady yelled out to not believe those scientists because they 'were being paid by Shell Oil.' What did surprise me though was Dion seemed unaware that there are many credible scientists out there who do have doubts; stating he did not know where this guy got his numbers from and went for the old majority of scientists line. Agree or not, believe or not, if you are embarking on a plan to radically alter our economy shouldn't you at least be aware of all sides of an issue before making us all take the plunge? Your average Liberal blogger is more aware of the scientific argument than Dion is, and that is very scary if you ask me.
What I found most entertaining was watching Liberal spin live and in person. This really showed itself with a couple of questions that dealt with the added costs that we would be expected to pay, and they were all answered in the same way. Actually the specifics were not answered at all as Dion was working the smoke and mirrors hard avoiding the actual questions.
One was from one of those easy money guys from Fort Mac who didn't care if the price of gas went up $1.00 a litre because he could afford it, but asked how seniors could be expected to shoulder the extra costs. Dion totally avoided the question by talking about how the Liberal loved and supported seniors in Canada.
Another was from a low income student who did not make enough to pay income tax and was renting who wondered how he could be expected to cover the increased costs and still afford to go to school. Dion's answer was classic Liberal BS. Dion acted like he knew more about how the student lived than the student did. He told him that the $400 dollars he would get would easily cover the costs because as was student he would not have to heat a big house, he would be taking public transport and not be driving, and he would not have many tv's or computers so it would not cost him that much. Now that is arrogance at it's best folks. I wish he would have asked Dion if tuition would go up because of the carbon tax, because watching Dion squirm around that one would have been worth the price of admission, but that was not to be.
It looked like a couple of times that Dion might have to actually address the concerns over inflation and the rising costs due to his plan, but instead of addressing the concerns Dion used his pat answer of at least we would be getting something back with his plan. No mention that for most of us, with the poor being hit the hardest, that what we will be getting back will be much less than what we have to pay out in added cost.
Something else that really bothered me tonight was Dion's interchanging the word pollution for CO2. I have noticed this a couple of times in the past with some of his MP's in their summer letter writing campaign to local papers, but Dion, being the self proclaimed environmental hero, should know better. CO2 is NOT pollution because CO2 is necessary for life on this earth to even exist and without it we would simply die. So stop it already.
There is much more as I haven't even mentioned half of the obvious spin, the platitudes, or the rah rah it is up to us to lead and save the world stuff that Dion was trying to sell everyone in the room, and plenty of thoughts about my role as a blogger and what I should or should not do at an event such as this, but this post has already gotten way too long and it is time to shut it down while there might still be someone left who has read this far.
Comments and questions are always welcome.