I read somewhere last week that the reason the Cons are hiding their environment minister, John Baird, and are attacking the Liberal Green Shift (when they move beyond spit balls and raspberries) on economic, and not environmental, grounds is because they feel on safer ground making it an economic discussion.
That makes sense, particularly given the fact they have zero credibility on environmental issues. On the economy though, Conservatives (and conservatives) consistently tend to get better marks from the public as fiscal managers. The Cons likely had numbers like these from Nanos in mind when calling the play:
As a Liberal these are frustrating numbers. We usually see similar figures in the U.S., where Republicans are generally seen as better on the economy, despite the fact it was the Democrats and Bill Clinton that balanced the budget and returned a surplus, which the Republicans and George W. Bush turned into a trillion-dollar deficit with tax cuts for the rich that failed to trickle down. And in Canada, people tend to forget it was the Liberals that balanced the budget and returned us to the era of surpluses, while Jim Flaherty and Stephen Harper have turned-in the highest-spending budgets in Canadian history.
It’s just one of those common perceptions that’s actually a misconception, I suppose. Can the Liberals ever claim their rightful, deserved high ground as the soundest fiscal managers? It’s a public relations challenge, and while we don’t want to shift the debate to a perceived Conservative strength it is a point worth making, I think.
And maybe we’re not that far behind the eight-ball on the economy after all. The Nanos PDF doesn’t include regional breakdowns. I happened to pick up the Toronto Sun today though (I don’t do it often, I promise) and it did include regional numbers. And while the national numbers give the Cons an eight-point lead, the regional numbers are illuminating:
Atlantic Canada: Liberals 25.9, Cons 25.3, NDP 5.9, Greens 0.0
Quebec: Cons 26.1, Liberals 19.5, Bloc 11.3, NDP 8.2, Greens 1.3
Ontario: Cons 30.4, Liberals 30.1, NDP 8.2, Greens 0.8
West: Cons 39.0, Liberals 20.0, NDP 9.5, Greens 2.0
Looking at the breakdown, I’d argue the Cons’ 19-point lead in the West is skewing the national numbers. And I bet the number is something like 99 per cent in Alberta, so in the rest of the West it would be a little more competitive. With the exception of Quebec and the West/Alberta, the Liberals are actually competitive on the economy in the rest of Canada, tied within the margin. Given that this is a traditional Conservative area of strength, those are positive numbers, and argues a Liberal push on the economy, while a challenge, isn’t the uphill battle the national figures make it seem.
Which isn’t to say we should move away from the environmental ground when it comes to the Green Shift. That’s an area of strength for us. But in addition to being an environmental issue, this absolutely is an economic issue too. The new green economy is going to create jobs developing and implanting new clean, green technologies. That’s where the “megatonnes of money” quote the Conservatives cut and pasted out of context came from (speaking of tape editing...).
And we need to do a better job of poking holes in the myth of Conservative sound economic management. I like John McCallum, but having a more dynamic finance critic in the fall might help. Maybe Martha-Hall Findlay can be more up front. From income trusts to ballooning spending to questionable tax cuts to picking fights with Ontario, the Cons are vulnerable here.
It's not a choice between the two. The environment and the economy don’t exist in isolation. We need to push on both. Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers