Valérie Plante: Credibility depends on keeping Formula E race pledge

Several commentators and analysts have pointed out during the past few years that voters are shunning politicians perceived as elitist and are gravitating toward grassroots types, like Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington or It’s a Wonderful Life.

As Québec solidare MNA Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois pointed out yesterday in response to the election of Projet Montréal and its leader Valérie Plante as Montreal mayor: “(People) want a new vision of society and they are ready to support parties that are deemed to be radicals or underdogs by the mainstream press or by the political establishment.”

Indeed,  mainstream media like the Montreal Gazette endorsed the incumbent mayor, Denis Coderre, and his party in Sunday’s Montreal municipal election. The paper and its Postmedia parent company endorsed the losers — the Conservatives — in the last federal election, too, when Justin Trudeau and his Liberals were swept to power with a majority government.

Trudeau appealed to the everyday people with an upbeat, “sunny ways” campaign — and promised things like legalizing cannabis.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives under Stephen Harper offered little vision for the future except for the status quo.

Ditto for Denis Coderre in his lacklustre campaign for re-election as Montreal mayor. There was absolutely no vision for the future. He was content to rest on his record, even though much of the population felt he was an arrogant mayor who wasted taxpayers’ money on ridiculous projects.

Hence the victory of Plante, who came across much like Trudeau did in his campaign.

Of course, as some analysts point out, once these “radical anti-establishment underdogs” are elected, they become part of the establishment.

And if they break key election promises — promises that were important to the everyday people — they quickly lose credibility.

In Trudeau’s case, he may have broken some smaller promises, but he is keeping the biggies, like legalizing recreational cannabis. It’s on track, it will get done, even if the Senate delays it past the July 1, 2018 target date.

There are a couple of key promises Plante will have to keep. One of them is getting the Formula E race — electric cars — off the streets of Montreal. Coderre, in his arrogance and against the will of the people, inked a deal with race organizers to hold the event in Montreal for a few years. We don’t know exactly how much this past summer’s race cost the city yet, but suffice to say it didn’t make any money and they were giving away tickets to the sparsely attended event.

But they closed city streets to traffic, inconveniencing residents and business owners and workers in the affected areas big time.

There is some doubt about moving the race to the Gilles Villeneuve racetrack in Montreal because it will, apparently, be undergoing renovations next summer.

But in a press conference yesterday, mayor-elect Plante vowed that the race will not be held in the streets of Montreal next summer, although she can’t yet say where it will be held — or even if it will be held at all. She only takes office on Nov. 16.

This is a make or break promise for her. If that race does go on in the streets of Montreal — no matter what the reason — she will lose credibility, and people will be saying what they too often say when a new politician takes power: “New boss same as the old boss.”

Personally, I think if the race can’t be moved to the racetrack, Montreal may have to cut its losses and cancel the race outright, and pay whatever penalty it has to as part of the deal Coderre signed. Because her promise is too important to Montreal citizens, who aren’t interest in playing host to the Formula E crowd at their expense again.

As for Plante’s proposal for a new subway line, Montrealers are aware that she will be laying the groundwork for it during her first term, securing the funds, etc. So, she is already looking to a second term. But she will have to keep her word on the easier promises — like moving the E race, adding more buses to city streets — in order to win that second term.

I think she will do it. I’m confident — and I really hope that I won’t get fooled again.

— Jillian

Photo: Valérie Plante, Projet Montréal leader and mayor-elect. (Photo: Wikipedia)

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