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Lines in the sand

Stephane Dion is wasting no time clarifying the policy differences between his Liberals and Stephen Harper’s Tories, with his promise to scrap the GST cut to fund the environment:

He told the university audience that he would not follow through with a promise by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to reduce the GST to five per cent, from six per cent, by 2011.

“(The GST cut) is $5.5 billion out of the economy every year and it will not transform the economy and it is not a good social policy,” Dion said.

Instead, he would introduce tax measures that would encourage people to choose appliances that conserve electricity, cars that use the least amount of gas and for retrofitting homes to reduce heating fuel consumption.

“We want to make a link between your wallet and the planet,” he said, adding that such measures will be part of the party’s next election platform. ”It’s the way you change the culture.”

This is actually pretty savvy of Dion. The announcement is clear-cut, it’s easy to understand, and it comes at a time when the environment is at an all-time high as a voter concern.

Now, we can argue all we want about whether it’s a good idea to reverse tax cuts to try to use the government for social engineering, or whether the GST cut was a silly idea to begin with, or what the best way really is to help the environment. But whichever side of this one you’re on, the most encouraging sign is that suddenly we have a debate that’s once again about vision and policy, rather than about scandal and character. If this is a sign of things to come, I, for one, find it downright refreshing.

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