Tuesday, June 16, 2009

NDP strategy to fight Campbell's carbon tax was the right one, evidence shows

Axe the Gas Tax Won Votes for NDP

And here come more gas price hikes.

So why is leader James dropping the issue?

By Bill Tieleman

Published: June 16, 2009 TheTyee.ca

A shorter version of this column was published today in 24 hours newspaper.

I think [Gordon] Campbell won the election in spite of the carbon tax, not because of it, and that [Carole] James almost rode a brilliant strategy to an upset victory in an election that would otherwise not have been close.

- Professor Mark Jaccard, carbon tax supporter

Since the May 12 provincial election, many columnists, political pundits and observers have all argued the New Democratic Party was badly hurt by its plan to eliminate the B.C. Liberals' carbon tax.

Some have even suggested the NDP lost the election because of its gas tax position, saying it cost the party the environmental votes needed to win.

For example, the Victoria Times-Colonist editorialized on June 13 that: "The party's silly campaign to axe the carbon tax was a dud."

But all the evidence indicates exactly the opposite -- the NDP gained votes and had a fighting chance of winning the election because of its anti-carbon tax policy.

So with Premier Gordon Campbell about to raise the carbon tax on July 1 by 1.2 cents a litre on gasoline and 1.3 cents on heating fuel, it's worth looking at what really happened.

Why the axe was sharp

Mark Jaccard is one of the few who got it right, all the more noteworthy because he is a strong advocate of the carbon tax and criticized the NDP when it opposed the B.C. Liberals' introduction of an initial 2.4 cent a litre gas tax in February 2008.

The reasons why "axe the tax" made sense are simple -- one, the gas tax was an unpopular idea for most voters and two, a majority of those who felt it was their biggest issue actually voted NDP.

Ipsos Reid exit polls of voters showed that the carbon tax was "very important" to 26% of those surveyed -- and of those, 57 per cent voted NDP, 25 per cent B.C. Liberal and 13 per cent Green Party.

And polling last year by Ipsos Reid found a majority of supporters of every party, including Greens, opposed the carbon tax, while an exclusive 24 hours poll by Strategic Communications showed 73 per cent did not believe it would be revenue neutral and 71 per cent disagreed with the government sending out $100 "climate action dividend" cheques to British Columbians.

Economic miscalculations

No, the NDP's real problem in this election was obvious from the start -- Ipsos Reid reports that 60 per cent of voters felt economic issues were very important -- yet the party avoided meaningfully addressing B.C.'s number one concern.

It could also be expected that if some NDP voters were very opposed to the party's position on the carbon tax they would vote Green to protest.

But in fact that Green Party vote dropped one percent while the NDP vote went up 0.6 percent and the B.C. Liberals stayed the same. And the fledgling B.C. Conservative Party, which also strongly opposed the gas tax, took two percent of the vote with only 24 candidates running.

Jaccard rightly points out the NDP were 12 to 18 per cent behind the B.C. Liberals throughout 2007 and only got ahead in November 2008 after launching the axe the tax campaign earlier that year.

So it's easy to see why Jaccard concluded that: "Pundits are now concluding that because James lost the election and because it cost her some votes, her anti-tax campaign was dumb politics. This is faulty logic... My guess is that it provided a significant net gain relative to where the NDP stood in 2007."

James drops a winner

Like it or hate it, the NDP position on the carbon tax was the right one for them to take -- and it almost paid off with an election win.

What's bizarre now is NDP leader Carole James' decision last week to drop her party's fight and try to make "that tax more effective and more fair" -- just before it goes up again!

And if you agree with me that the gas tax is unfair and ineffective -- join over 9,000 others at my Facebook protest group by going to www.facebook.com and search for Axe The BC Gas Tax.

Related Tyee stories:

Jaccard Rebuts Carbon Tax Critics
Advisor to premier claims it's world-class policy.

BC's carbon tax kerfuffle goes global

Beyond the Carbon Tax
Two enviros argue it's 'fluff' and 'blackmail' and no real fix for climate change.



DPL said...

Just another flip flop by James. She did it before on pay raises( twice), Agriculteral Land taken without restrictions for a small treaty, where the land became a parking lot,for the coal port. Who knows when she will change direction again. People will start to get whiplash if she keeps this up. Maybe some one might start a list of her changes in issues. BC's own Ms. Dithers

Laila said...

I understand through the blogosphere grapevine,that many ardent James supporters are now calling for her removal because of moves like this.In fact,there has been talk of starting a new facebook group to start that ball rolling.

I for one, was shocked at the announcement she was dropping the issue.Not a wise move by far.

Angela said...

Mark Jaccard has some compelling evidence but comes up short with his conclusions. Agreed, the NDP missed the boat when they failed to attack the Liberals economic view but more likely they got votes from simply being NDP. We'll probably never know how many voters actually supported them, issues were virtually meaningless. The "true" support for the Green party is about 12-15%. They lose between a third and half their support to a party and leader who simply stand up and say we're not Liberal so vote for us. Axe the tax was nothing more than that. Not that Campbell is any more creative. He's done the same trick in the past, makes me sick to call either of them a leader. I think I prefer Iranian politics to Canadian. But I'm off topic. Jaccard has simply assembled raw data and drawn conclusions about what they mean without showing any correlation. His suggestion that the Axe the Tax campaign was the reason the gap between the two parties lessened over the last 6 months was by his own admission just a guess. And not a very good one. Look to the voter turnout for the real answer. Elections in BC have become a sham.

Anonymous said...

With friends like Bill Tieleman the Carole James NDP needs no enemies….

Anonymous said...

It may have helped if Carol was able to speak on the news every now and then too. I suspect most people did not even know who she was.

Anonymous said...


Just another "Affirmative Action Groupie" who has risen 2 or 3 rungs above her real level of ability.

Or she is a Gordon Campbell/Fraser Institute "mole" planted in the NDP like the Soviets did with Kim Philby penetrating SIS in World War II.


Anonymous said...

Is there evidence that Axe the Tax was good political opportunism? Plenty.

Is there evidence that it resulted in a net shift of votes from other parties to the NDP? That it won the NDP more individual seats than it lost them (e.g. Vancouver Fairview)? No.

Does anyone actually believe the NDP will finally win over and keep a majority of British Columbians with "political opportunism" as the centrepiece of its shining vision of a better future?

Dream on, Bill!

Dan Grice said...


This post seems to be more about promoting a Facebook group than a critical evidence of the indication.

The carbon tax lost Campbell some support, but many of these voters indicated they were not voting rather than being attracted to the NDP. If you look at many of the suburban ridings, the Liberal vote spread increased, as did their vote in the North

The only places where Liberal support dropped noticably were in ridings where the BC Conservatives ran (in the Okanagon) and pulled in 10-20%.

The NDP only appeared to gain in their own ridings, such as Burnaby, New West, North Island and Sunshine Coast.

If the carbon tax was a winning issue, you would have seen more of a shift in the commuter communities and in the North.

Anonymous said...


It may have won in the F150 hinterland, but even that is debatable. No amount of skillful turd polishing is going to make the ax the tax disaster shine. James does not win when she acts like a small "l" liberal and loses the plot.

In urban ridings this tactic hurt the NDP badly especially in close races. Ida Chong would be have been defeated and the same analysis could be brought to many closely fought wins. Many Social Democrats held their noses but withdrew their support by not joining campaign efforts or ultimately by parking their votes.

A new leader will unite the left and the greens. Let's hope there still some environment left to protect.

Anonymous said...

As an NDP voter, I did not support the axe the tax campaign. I know all the arguments for why people say the tax is bad. The problem for me is, addressing the issue of climate change is more complex than an all or nothing stance regarding the actual tax. It will require us to do many different things, including a carbon tax. As for Carole James, I believe the good ole boys just want her out! Despite all our claims about women's rights and equality, when it comes to politics, you actually have to wear the pants. Pant suits don't cut it - just ask Hilary.

Anonymous said...

Why did fifty percent of the public feel so disolusioned with our political system they failed to come out and vote? Could it be the NDP who has had lots to say about the day to day operations of government who hold a majority but goes unheard? Or all the promises of an open and accountable government that takes you into the Dark? Or was it the Liberals who with the help of Canwest did an all out down and dirty media blitz on the NDP. With a whole new aid as the last one is still doing court with Rail deal gone bad. Or could it have been the Liberals and Campbell's Do It My Way or Else! All the while taking government to a whole new level of corruption which there is no turning back as its just a question of time before the corruption shows it ugly head for all to see. Put that in your tank and watch the black clouds of deceit fume are highways. And Carole well she is just showing you that sticking to your guns isn't a privilege reserved for politicians.