Vot­ers send mes­sage with Mon­treal’s new mayor

Northumberland Today - - OPINION - DON MACPHER­SON

Sud­denly, when 43-year-old Valérie Plante was de­clared elected as mayor of Mon­treal, the three lead­ing can­di­dates for Que­bec premier seemed to age.

As­sum­ing none of them steps down be­fore next year’s gen­eral elec­tion — and there was spec­u­la­tion this week about both Lib­eral Premier Philippe Couil­lard and Parti Québé­cois Leader Jean-François Lisée do­ing just that — the Lib­er­als, the PQ and François Le­gault’s Coali­tion Avenir Québec party will all be led into the cam­paign by men in their 60s.

Consider this: Prime Min­is­ter Trudeau now is the old­est of the three ma­jor fed­eral party lead­ers — at 45.

Af­ter Sun­day, the ma­jor Que­bec lead­ers look even more like the rear­guard of a boomer gen­er­a­tion whose con­trol of the po­lit­i­cal agenda is weak­en­ing.

“Your old road is rapidly agin’,” the boomers’ bard, Bob Dy­lan, sang to their moth­ers and fa­thers. Now it’s the boomers’ turn.

One prob­a­ble ef­fect of Plante’s vic­tory will be to have the pro­vin­cial par­ties com­pen­sate for the age of their lead­ers by re­cruit­ing younger can­di­dates.

There are other mes­sages for pro­vin­cial politi­cians in the re­sults of Que­bec’s mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions.

One is that there is no ex­cuse for par­ties not to ad­dress the un­der­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of women in the National As­sem­bly by re­cruit­ing more of them as can­di­dates in com­pet­i­tive rid­ings. The elec­tions showed that women are will­ing to run, and Que­be­cers are will­ing to vote for them.

And not just in Mon­treal, where women will hold a ma­jor­ity of the seats on the new city and bor­ough coun­cils. In ru­ral vil­lages and cities, La Presse re­ported, more than 200 fe­male may­ors were elected.

Other mes­sages, in the de­feat of Mon­treal in­cum­bent mayor De­nis Coderre, are ad­dressed to Couil­lard and the Lib­er­als in par­tic­u­lar.

His­toric trends favour­ing the re-elec­tion of first-term ad­min­is­tra­tions no longer hold, and po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence and in­cum­bency have be­come li­a­bil­i­ties rather than as­sets.

So has the pub­lic en­dorse­ment of busi­ness­men. “The business com­mu­nity” now stands for men in ex­pen­sive suits re­ward­ing them­selves with ob­scene salaries for get­ting gov­ern­ment hand­outs while lay­ing off work­ing men and women, and stash­ing their money in off­shore tax havens.

Coderre’s de­feat con­firms what polls at the pro­vin­cial level were show­ing: an in­cum­bent can no longer ex­pect credit from vot­ers for a boom­ing econ­omy.

Nor is he en­ti­tled to their grat­i­tude for im­pos­ing im­me­di­ate sac­ri­fices on them for the ben­e­fit of fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

The rea­son for the de­crepi­tude of Mon­treal’s in­fra­struc­ture is that Coderre’s pre­de­ces­sors had ne­glected it. They be­lieved they would not be re­warded by vot­ers for re­pair­ing it. Coderre’s de­feat shows they were right.

And Que­bec vot­ers care less about the ap­proval of the bond-rat­ing agen­cies for pay­ing down the pub­lic debt than about hav­ing to pay higher taxes while con­di­tions in their chil­dren’s schools de­te­ri­o­rated.

If there’s any en­cour­age­ment for the Lib­er­als in the Mon­treal re­sults, it’s that they again show that it’s fool­ish to con­cede de­feat early in a cam­paign — or be­fore it. Vot­ers’ mem­o­ries and at­ten­tion spans can be short. The last Que­bec and fed­eral elec­tions were de­cided well into the of­fi­cial cam­paigns, and the Mon­treal one in the last few days.

The Lib­er­als have 11 months un­til the elec­tion is due, along with money saved to try to make vot­ers for­get the aus­ter­ity that gen­er­ated it. And time can be a valu­able as­set in pol­i­tics, if used well.

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