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Canadians may appear cold to the carbon tax - until you rephrase the question Add to ...

For the dwindling few who still seem to care about climate change and reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, these are troubling times. The environment virtually disappeared as an issue during the recent federal election. Meanwhile, the two mainstream politicians in Canada with the courage to try to do something about it via a carbon tax have paid a steep political price.

The Tories were ruthless in their distortion of Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion's Green Shift plan, which involved a levy on carbon use and a reduction in income tax. Mr. Dion did not help matters with his inability to articulate much of anything in the 10-second sound bites that pass for political discourse in the 21st century.

Canadians rewarded Stephen Harper, whose lack of interest in global warming is unsurpassed by that of any leader in the Western world (we are first in something!), with 16 more seats.

In B.C., Premier Gordon Campbell's modest carbon levy has been effectively savaged by the once-green New Democratic Party, with the made-for-TV slogan "axe the tax," even though, like Mr. Dion's plan, taxes are reduced in other areas. The carbon tax is designed to encourage people to drive less and perhaps switch to more fuel-efficient vehicles. Why this is a bad thing is beyond me, but there's no doubt the Liberals have taken a hit on the issue. People hear the word "tax" and freak.

Interesting, then, to learn from a recent opinion poll first reported in The Tyee that Canadians actually support the idea of revenue-neutral carbon taxes. They just need to be asked the right question.

Earlier this month, McAllister Opinion Research asked nearly 2,000 Canadians what they thought of a tax shift that involved "cutting income taxes and increasing taxes on pollution." Two-thirds said they thought it was a good idea. Sadly, no one phrases the question like that on the hustings. In politics, perception is everything.

WHO ARE THE SAVAGES HERE?

VANOC board member Dick Pound is not a racist, but he sure is a lame historian. Not only does he use the inflammatory term "savages" to describe the indigenous tribes who populated Canada 400 years ago, he forgets the real savages. Those would be your conquering white colonialists, who provided the natives with such measures of civilization as guns, whisky, lethal communicable diseases and early graves, if they got in the way. Later on, colonial ancestors broke treaties, shunted the natives to appalling reserves and forced their children into residential schools that scarred many of them for life. Savages, indeed.

Mr. Pound got China wrong, too. His controversial reference was made in defence of holding the Summer Olympics in Beijing, despite China's jailing of dissidents, crackdown on Tibetans, etc. The veteran Olympic official suggested that Canadians, with only three or four centuries of experience, should be cautious about telling China, a civilization of 5,000 years standing, how to run its affairs. That may well be, but 5,000 years of civilization has yet to produce democracy or respect for human rights. Not to mention what happened at Tiananmen Square in year 4,981 of China's civilized history. Slow learners, I guess.

A CRAN-TASTIC GOOD TIME

For those of you who think there is no good economic news in B.C., think again. Once more, ladies and gentlemen, this bountiful province heads the country in cranberry sales. Take that, wizened Ontario!

To properly celebrate the prominence of the tart red berry, the public is invited this morning, and I am not making this up, to join Agriculture Minister Stan Hagen "and wade into a flooded cranberry bog." Who knew the minister was such a wild and crazy guy? One shudders, though, at what he might do if B.C. led the land in pig production.

GOING CRACKERS

Construction has stopped, phones go unanswered and even advertising has disappeared at the site of the proposed ultradeluxe Ritz-Carlton hotel and zillion-dollar condominium project at Georgia and Howe in the heart of downtown Vancouver. It's just a design problem, the principals insist. No matter what the reason, however, as one media wag put it yesterday: "They are certainly putting off the Ritz."

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