Voters send message with Montreal’s new mayor
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. firstname.lastname@example.org