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Liberal delegates leave room for carbon tax, which Ignatieff doesn’t support

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VANCOUVER — Liberals have said farewell to Stephane Dion, but they aren’t prepared to do the same for his ill-fated carbon tax.

The party’s new leader, Michael Ignatieff, has written off the possibility of resurrecting the tax after the party’s disastrous showing in last fall’s election, but members clearly haven’t abandoned the idea.

In two votes Saturday at the Liberal convention in Vancouver, delegates endorsed motions that left room for a carbon tax.

One calls for the Liberals to consider "all mechanisms . . . including taxation" to address climate change, while the other asks for a carbon tax, a cap-and-trade system, or both.

Briony Penn, a B.C. environmentalist who ran as a Liberal last year’s election, told delegates the party must keep all options on the table.

"This is an opportunity to address the economic crisis by looking forward, as we heard from Mr. Dion last night," Penn told delegates, referring to the former Grit leader’s lengthy speech a day earlier at his official send-off.

"This is a very comprehensive plan, it lays it wide open for the policymakers and the top researchers to formulate the best plan for Canada."

Both motions were applauded as they were passed with overwhelming support, but they’ll likely have little effect on Ignatieff as he drafts his election platform.

Ignatieff, who was the first prominent Liberal to advocate for a carbon tax in the 2006 leadership race, has since abandoned the idea.

"We took the carbon tax to the public and the public doesn’t think it was such a good idea," he said earlier this year.

"I’m trying to get myself elected here and if the public, after mature consideration, think that’s the dumbest thing they’ve ever heard, then I’ve got to listen."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s press secretary suggested Ignatieff secretly wants to bring back the tax.

"Mr. Ignatieff is the father of the carbon tax," Dimitri Soudas said in an email.

"He must be pleased that Liberals have put it back on the table, since he has a not-so-hidden agenda to impose one on Canadians."

The environmental proposals were among two dozen motions approved by delegates.

Unlike previous conventions, when members have held workshops to choose resolutions to bring to a vote, riding association presidents pared down a list of more than 100 resolutions beforehand.

Other motions passed Saturday include:

  • Reducing poverty by 30 per cent and child poverty by 50 per cent within five years — another idea championed by Dion;
  • Bringing back the $5-billion Kelowna Accord for aboriginals, signed in 2005 by Paul Martin’s Liberal government and later scrapped by Harper;
  • The creation of a national child-care program and improving home care;
  • Creating a national housing policy;
  • Expanding the power of the Canadian Human Rights Commission;
  • Providing incentives for alternative energy, including wind and nuclear power; and,
  • Allowing gay men to donate organs.

There were other potentially controversial resolutions that didn’t make it past riding presidents, including motions calling for the legalization of assisted suicide, eliminating the monarchy and financial penalties for provinces that refuse to fund abortions.

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