Thursday, October 8, 2009

Update on Michael Ignatieff while Stephen Harper Gets Caught in Lie

I just posted that Michael Ignatieff was reportedly going to announce a possible tax increase, but that part was obviously twisted by the media, most of whom have now joined the staff of the Reform-Conservatives.

He does want to have an adult conversation with Canadians, but tax increases are not on the table. Harper must be running out of fodder for attack ads, so he's now just making stuff up.

Ignatieff wants honest talk on deficit elimination
By: The Canadian Press
October 8, 2009

OTTAWA — Michael Ignatieff insisted Wednesday he has no plan to raise taxes, denying a report that he's about to embark on a politically risky "adult conversation" with Canadians about the painful measures necessary to eliminate the country's ballooning deficit.

Senior party insiders told The Canadian Press earlier Wednesday that the Liberal leader is about to launch a blunt discussion of the realistic options available for staunching the flow of red ink.

They said the discussion would include tax increases, major spending cuts, remaining mired in deficit for years longer than anticipated, or some combination of the three. But in a statement late Wednesday, Ignatieff said he has no plan to raise taxes.

"I've been clear," he said. "Tax increases are not part of my plan.

"Our economy is fragile. It's bad policy to add to the burden of middle and low-income households or small businesses."

The insiders had said Ignatieff wouldn't disclose his own prescription for taming the deficit until the brink of an election, which now seems unlikely this year. They said he wants a better idea of just how bad the fiscal books are and how willing voters are to bite the bullet before making any detailed proposal.

News that Ignatieff was prepared to even discuss the possibility of tax increases was greeted as a political gift by the Conservatives and NDP, who instantly began circulating the story and offering critical comment.

Voters typically balk at the notion of paying more taxes, even for a good cause -- as Ignatieff's predecessor, Stephane Dion, discovered when he proposed a carbon tax during the last election. (Much worse than Stephen Harper stating unequivocally that he would not go into deficit.)

And the governing Conservatives are masters at framing the tax debate in its most simplistic terms: Taxes are bad; big-spending Liberals want to make you pay more.

Ignatieff felt the impact of the Tory spin machine last spring when he mused that tax hikes might be necessary down the road. The Tories pounced instantly and Ignatieff reversed himself before the day was out.

Since then, however, the insiders pointed out that this fiscal year's deficit has ballooned to $56 billion -- the largest deficit in Canadian history despite Prime Minister Stephen Harper's assurances only a year ago that the country could weather the global recession without plunging back into the red.

Moreover, independent parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page has forecast a structural deficit of almost $12 billion by 2013-14 -- a figure Liberals expect to go up in Page's next report in a couple of weeks.

The insiders said Ignatieff is now willing to gamble that Canadians want some honest, straight talk about the true depth of the deficit hole, and that they already know that climbing out of it cannot be pain-free.

"It's the elephant in the room," said one.

The insiders indicated Ignatieff intends to kick off discussion of the tough choices ahead with a speech Thursday to the Chamber of Commerce in London, Ont. That was to be followed by a series of townhall-style meetings to engage Canadians in the debate.

However, Ignatieff spokesperson Jill Fairbrother said late Wednesday that the leader intends only to continue demanding that the Tories "come clean" on the real fiscal numbers. As part of that, he'll continue to argue against what Liberals contend is a Tory attempt to muzzle Page.

"He doesn't believe you can develop a plan to get us out of this mess until you know what the real numbers are," she said. "That is where we're at and there's no strategy beyond that."

For the past few days, Ignatieff has been laying the groundwork for the debate with repeated attempts to demonstrate that the Tories' relatively rosy fiscal projections are misleading, if not an outright lie.

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