So long, Denis; Hello Valérie … Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Posted on November 07, 2017, 1:33 am
7 mins

PHOTOS: Just-defeated Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre (Photo: City of Montreal.) Below: Montreal Mayor-elect Valérie Plante, who defeated Mr. Coderre in the city’s civic election Sunday, and Saskatchewan Senator Denise Batters, both photos from their Twitter accounts.

I’ve got some advice for those right-wingers from Western Canada cheering the political demise of Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, beaten, apparently unexpectedly, by City Councillor Valérie Plante on Sunday.

Be careful what you wish for. You may just get it.

Indeed, I have a feeling – it’s just a feeling, mind you, because it’s always dangerous to commentate on politics in far-away places where you don’t usually pay attention and therefore don’t have much idea what’s really going on – that Ms. Plante isn’t going to turn out to be very much of an advocate for pipelines full of Alberta bitumen running hither and yon through Quebec.

Au contraire, in fact.

Still, on Sunday night at any rate, Mr. Coderre’s defeat was being cheered out here in certain parts of the Peanut Gallery on the Prairies as if he were being punished for being mean to the region’s self-pitying Conservatives.

“Karma comes back to haunt #DenisCoderre, who celebrated #EnergyEast cancellation,” Tweeted Senator Denise Batters, a self described proud Conservative, and a Harper-Government-appointed Senator from Saskatchewan, Sunday evening. “From western Canadians, thank you to the people of #Montreal,” she Twittered on.

Mr. Coderre, of course, aroused the particular wrath of several Western Canadian politicians who were not all that anxious to talk about their own records – prominent among them departing Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and the then-contenders for the leadership of Alberta’s United Conservative Party – for daring to express his pleasure at the decision last month by TransCanada Corp. to pull the plug on its foundering Energy East Pipeline project.

The outgoing Montreal Mayor, who lost fairly narrowly to Ms. Plante, was according to Toronto Star columnist and frequent television commentator Chantal Hébert, an abrasive politician who enjoyed getting up people’s noses.

Presumably he reckoned irritating Westerns Canadian Conservatives like Mr. Wall, UCP Leader Jason Kenney and his former rival Brian Jean – who like Mr. Coderre is now suffering the agonies of a recent political defeat – was good for keeping the minds of voters back home off what they didn’t like about him. In the event, a decent showing notwithstanding, it appears not to have worked.

But Senator Batters’ “karma comes back” crack – despite sounding a bit like déjà vu all over again – missed the boat if she meant to suggest Mr. Coderre was turfed for daring to oppose Energy East and publicly celebrating its demise.

On the contrary, he seems to have been given the bum’s rush in part for not being environmentally friendly enough – in other words, quite possibly, not opposed enough to Energy East and not supportive enough of public transit, bicycle lanes and safe sidewalks.

Another thing Montreal voters seem to have held against him – missed entirely out here in the West, where he’s often reviled for being a Liberal – was apparently that he was too conservative.

Plus after 375 years of having their city run by men – including one who famously promised that “the Olympics can no more lose money than a man can have a baby” – they presumably decided, sensibly enough, it was high time to elect a woman.

So if we’re talking about pipelines as a national-unity project, the karma of the electoral success of Ms. Plante’s Projet Montréal party seems more likely to be directed against cranky oilpatch Conservatives who insist that yelling at Canadians elsewhere is going to get us what we want and return us to the days of the so called Alberta (and Saskatchewan) Advantage, which apparently means not paying the taxes required to have a modern economy because we thought we’d won the lottery.

Now that all the money’s gone, nobody feels very sorry for us.

“This idea of Alberta as this poor, woe begotten, economic basket-case is a myth, one that opposition politicians here like to trade on,” wrote Globe and Mail Western Canada columnist Gary Mason from Calgary a few days ago. “It’s a fairy tale.”

Mr. Mason went on, unsympathetically: “The fact is Alberta politicians have created much of the mess the province is in – not oil prices, not Quebec, not Ottawa, not B.C. For years, they relied on oil revenues to keep taxes low and spending high – the highest per capita spending in the country. The province spent like the good times would never end, with no plan for the day the music stopped or at least slowed down.”

Much the same can be said of the province directly to the east under Mr. Wall’s Saskatchewan Party.

What are we likely to do about it, under either the NDP or the UCP? Certainly not bring in a sales tax! More likely, many of us will continue to complain about Quebec, which has very little to do with our troubles.

So long, Denis. Hello Valérie. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

16 Comments to: So long, Denis; Hello Valérie … Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

  1. Bloozguy

    November 7th, 2017

    He got dumped because
    A) He was an arrogant sod.
    B) Because he went for big splash projects rather than improving the lives of the citizens of Montreal

    As to pipelines? You can forget about it. They’re not that crazy.

    Reply
  2. Farmer B

    November 7th, 2017

    Yup, I have to admit I celebrated for short period of time when I saw that Denis Coderre had lost the election, that was until I realized the chickens had kicked out the rooster and let the fox in the hen house. It became readily apparent that the new mayor Valerie Plante was certainly more left leaning than the ousted Denis Coderre. Now the question is this will she be more like Premier Notley who recently stated it would be “economically negligent” not to develope our oil resources or like Premier John Horgan and federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh both who vehemently oppose oil resource developement and want it left in the ground!

    One short thought on what Gary Mason said about Alberta politicians creating the financial mess in Alberta. How exactly is Rachel Notley any better than the previous PC governments in managing the finances? Answer, she is not! In fact she is worse! Increasing spending while oil revenues drop without any realistic plan to return to balance. In fact recording the largest yearly deficits back to back in Alberta’s history. There is no doubt the PC’s created a bloated beauocracy but instead of the NDP putting it on a diet they added whip cream to the desert. Albertan’s as a whole certainly should share the blame, they keep demanding the government largesse but refuse the tax restructuring required to pay for it!

    Reply
    • Agustin

      November 7th, 2017

      I’m curious: what would you cut?

      Reply
      • Farmer B

        November 8th, 2017

        That certainly is the question isn’t it Agustin. Going by memory(don’t expect 100% accuracy) Alberta’s budget for 2017-18 is around $52 billion of which when you include capital spending $14-15 billion is borrowed money. 14 billion is roughly 27% of 52 billion. Any reasonable person would realize that you can’t cut 27% of the provinces budget. Plus the increasing deficit adds to the problem with the increasing expense of interest on that borrowed money. To get closer to balance and at least remove the operational deficit, spending will have to decrease and revenue will have to increase.

        Alberta pays just over $20 billion in salaries and compensation per year. When compared to the other provinces we are near the top for wage levels. I would suggest that at the higher end $150 thousand and up(mla’s included) a 8-10% wage rollback. $100-150 thousand 5%, $60-100 thousand 2.5% and below that either a wage freeze or maybe a 1 or 2 percent increase.

        Unfortunately we are locked in to paying compensation to power generation companies for early shuttering of coal generation plants, all these plants were slated for closure over time, Albertans are paying dearly for accelerating this process. I would look into whether these could be reversed to save some money. i would also take a serious look at the AESO, at present it is running in deficit something that wasn’t allowed in the past.

        As for tax changes. First introduce a 5% sales tax, it is speculated for every 1% of sales tax there will be $1 billion in revenue. To help stimulate economic activity I would make the carbon tax revenue neutral, I compensate for the carbon tax revenue by lowering both personal and corporate taxes in a roughly equal amount. If 1$ billion of carbon tax revenue comes in, returns from personal and corporate taxes would be cut to lower their take by roughly the same amount. This way you are taxing something you don’t want, C02 and lowering taxes on what you do want,income. Two other changes, I believe in Alberta you can earn $17000 before personal income tax is applied I would raise this in $1000 increments over 3 years reaching $20000 to help those in the lower income brackets. I would also return small business tax to 3%. 3 income tax brackets 10-12-14. Compensation for the carbon tax would changes these over time. Anyway off to work, enjoy your day:-)

        Reply
    • Lulymay

      November 7th, 2017

      If only, however, previous politicians (who were ALL Cons, by the way) had not spent every dime that Premier Lougheed had squirred away in the Heritage Fund, thinking that the gravy train would never end! Most thinking folks put something away for their retirement so they don’t have to just “sell the farm” in order to live out the rest of their lives, except the greedy Con politicians that never thought past the end of their noses and all those oil riches that would keep them flying high for eons.

      Reply
    • Expat Albertan

      November 7th, 2017

      What difference does it make which way Plante swings? The door is closed on a pipeline through Québec (and Ontario, and Manitoba, in case you need reminding). It was nothing more than talisman for desperate Albertans anyway.

      Reply
  3. Kang the barbarian

    November 7th, 2017

    Okay all you free enterprisers and worshipers of the market who are angry with the former Montreal mayor, please explain to me why a rational economic actor would support energy east? In Montreal you have the choice of buying tar dissolved in a solvent from Alberta or light sweet crude from the Middle East.

    You will pay world price for either product PLUS the cost of transportation. Ocean freight is as close to free as possible while pipelines are expensive to build and costly to operate – not to mention the high cost of refining tar sands oil into something useful. So why are you angry nobody wants to pay more for less?

    And can somebody please tell me how emptying oil and gas reservoirs is “sustainable?”

    Reply
    • Expat Albertan

      November 7th, 2017

      Funny thing… selling Alberta oil domestically was what the dreaded NEP was all about.

      Reply
  4. November 7th, 2017

    I think that it is healthy to see an ‘establishment’ candidate go down to defeat. I think that it resets the game and makes people realize that their votes not only count but can make a difference.

    PACs are going to be a serious challenge to our democracy going forward. Just look at the impact they have had on US politics.

    I have no doubt that the PACs in Alberta are very busy raising money for the UCP. And creating wedge issues in order to inject fear, uncertainty, and doubt into the minds of voters. Especially since the establishment failed miserably in trying to get Smith to unseat Nenshi.

    Reply
  5. Cur Mudgeon

    November 7th, 2017

    Regarding “poor Alberta”: I haven’t done the math recently, but not too long ago this province could have eliminated its deficit with a modest sales tax–and still have been the lowest-taxed province in Canada. We just have to drop the old reliance on the resource panacea.

    Reply
  6. Sam Gunsch

    November 7th, 2017

    excerpt: ‘recommendation to spend counter-cyclically to stimulate Alberta’s economy during the current downturn in commodity prices’
    ====
    Former Bank of Canada Governor who was conservative in his politics, economic choices, advised AB that spending on infrastructure was necessary to offset oil price collapse economic damage.
    ====

    excerpt: ‘The infrastructure plan was developed in consultation with David Dodge, former Bank of Canada Governor, and adopts his recommendation to spend counter-cyclically to stimulate Alberta’s economy during the current downturn in commodity prices.’

    https://www.osler.com/en/resources/regulations/2016/economic-stimulus-through-infrastructure-investmen

    Something the extreme right refuses to admit is Dodge’s advice: gov’t spending to invest in necessary public infrastructure fertilizes the economy so it doesn’t completely die back when oil prices decline and threaten to push AB economy closer to the pain of the 1930s type of depression.

    Ignoring this basic economic insight, Klein conservatives and RW geniuses at Fraser Institute et al cheered paying off AB financial debt but left AB with infrastructure debt. Decore’s terms as Edm mayor created the same problem in Edmonton.

    Farmers, business, corporations all borrow to invest in assets necessary to production/profits.

    It’s only the ideologues of the extreme right that can argue debt is fine for anyone but gov’ts.

    Reply
    • Bob Raynard

      November 7th, 2017

      Sam, the kicker is that even Klein commented that money needs to be spent on infrastructure when times are difficult. He said it, of course, when the economy was red hot and he needed an excuse not to spend on infrastructure. Now if only he had left us some money to do it with…

      Reply
      • Sam Gunsch

        November 8th, 2017

        You’re right. In general. But it seems to me from the books I’ve read by AB political observers, Klein was just good at identifying the parade and getting in front of it. The agenda was actually set by market fundamentalists resident at the Fraser Institute, Calgary Chamber of Commerce, U of C ‘Public School’, CAPP, CFIB, CTF, and so on.

        Calgary had the most debt per person in Canada when Klein left the mayoralty. IMHO, he had no ideology, except a keen focus on winning, and Rod Love made winning possible. Klein’s brain.

        What’s interesting now is that Kenney’s got a brain of his own. Taking over AB? We shall see…
        ‘just win baby’.

        Reply
    • jerrymacgp

      November 10th, 2017

      The problem with counter-cyclical fiscal policy, à la J M Keynes, is that during boom times governments should restrain spending and draw on more revenues in order to set aside resources for that inevitable rainy day, something the 44-year PC dynasty clearly failed to do.

      In fact, under the sainted Ralph Klein and his successors, did the exact opposite: they ramped up spending, to try and cope with the increasing demands of a rapidly increasing and younger population wanting more and better schools, hospitals, and roads. But whereas public expenditures can “prime the pump” during economic downturns and smooth the business cycle, the PC pattern was to over-prime an already overheated pump, which drastically escalated costs due to price competition with the private sector in terms of both contract costs for projects and wages & benefits for workers. In addition, they kept taxes and royalties low even in boom times, which would have been the best times to ramp those up, accumulating deficits even at the peak of the cycle. If you can’t balance the budget even with $100+ oil, how can you expect anyone to balance it at $24 or less? (In point of fact, the recent nadir for Western Canada Select was in February 2016, right about the time the new NDP government had to present a budget, when it dropped to US$16.30/bbl; http://economicdashboard.alberta.ca/OilPrice).

      It’s hard to know if the Notley-led NDP government would do this any better, since in its 2½ years in office it has not been privileged with another boom. We are seeing a recovery, and things have certainly improved, but this is hardly a boom. Oil is now at about US$40/bbl for WCS, a far cry from the US$86 it was in June 2014. But the new United Conservatives would seem to think you can cut spending without cutting services Albertans want and need, voodoo economics if I’ve ever seen it.

      Reply
  7. David

    November 7th, 2017

    Without Mr. Coderre, we might have to give up complaining about Quebec, which for some Alberta Conservatives is a favorite and very old past time. Yes, he was very confrontational in a way that really riled up western Conservatives. I doubt his replacement, Ms. Plante will have a significantly different position on pipelines and that issue is really now closed anyways, but she seems pleasant and does not seem to go out of her way to court controversy for political advantage (at least so far), so Alberta Conservatives will have one less thing to be riled up about. It is a small win for national unity on the eastern front.

    However, I am sure the Alberta Conservatives, who prefer Quebec bashing, because it is a much easier sell to the prejudices of some in this province will now turn their ire westward to BC. What is a good populist movement without external enemies to blame for all our problems, whether that be Mexicans or Muslims for our southern neighbours or in our case BC and the Federal government. However, I am not so sure how successful that will be. While it is true there is a lot of historical antipathy in Alberta to the Federal party currently in power, unlike his father, Prime Minister Trudeau seems to be making a major effort not to unduly upset the west. On the other hand, BC is generally fairly well regarded by Albertans at least up until now – not much historical antipathy there. It is our favorite province to vacation in and retire to and many of us have friends and relatives there. Yes, the minority government there is rather preoccupied by its own politics at the moment that does not favour us, but I don’t think it is intentionally trying to anger or snub Alberta either.

    In order to succeed in the populist politics of scapegoating, you need to have the right external enemies and with the departure of Mr. Coderre Alberta Conservatives have just lost their very best whipping boy. Yes, Albertans should be glad that Mr. Coderre is gone, but not for the reasons some think.

    Reply

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