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

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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.

Categories Alberta Politics