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Brownstein: Ex-mayor Coderre touches on life, love and politics – Montreal Gazette

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It sure sounds like he is itching for a political comeback, and much more on the municipal than the provincial front — and not at all federally.

Denis Coderre does have an announcement to make.

Must have something to do with Coderre making a run for the leadership of the Quebec Liberal Party. Or taking a stab at becoming Montreal mayor again. Or even, as some would-be pundits at a downtown bar were speculating, that Coderre could be enticed to seek the leadership of the federal Conservatives.

Right?

Nope. Nope. Nope.

Coderre simply wishes to announce … he’s in love.

After splitting up with longtime spouse Chantale Renaud morethan a year ago, Coderre reveals he’s head over heels for one Rebecca Moreau, who is involved with the popular downtown Asian-fusion resto Jatoba as well as events marketing.

“She’s an amazing person — smart, eloquent and a great partner,” Coderre, 56, says. “I’m very happy.”

Regardless of his love life, rumours continue to swirl wildly about Coderre’s return to politics.

As for the idle talk of him following Andrew Scheer as head of the Conservatives, Coderre breaks into gales of laughter on the phone before uttering: “I’m not that nuts.” Which would certainly seem to suggest that scenario is not on the horizon now, nor will it ever be.


Then Montreal mayor Denis Coderre with former Quebec premier Jean Charest in 2017.

John Mahoney /

Montreal Gazette

“I don’t know where stuff like this even comes from, certainly not from me … that’s just so wild,” Coderre says between bouts of laughter. “People obviously have too much time on their hands. Is their point that if Jean Charest can come back, so can I?”

More laughter.

Despite the fact he has never publicly discussed any desire to jump into the race for the head of the Quebec Liberals, a November Léger Marketing survey prepared for the Journal de Montréal had Coderre leading the race for the job. In the poll, he had 19-per-cent support among Liberals surveyed, seven per cent more than Liberal MNA Dominique Anglade and 11 per cent more than Drummondville Mayor Alexandre Cusson, two declared candidates for the position.

There is less laughter from Coderre regarding this scenario.

“I’m not there,” he says. But he does note that since that poll was released he had been getting lots of calls from those who wished he would enter the leadership race, which will be decided in May.


Former Montreal mayor Denis Coderre thanked the many workers on hand for the inauguration of the new Samuel-De Champlain Bridge in Montreal on Friday June 28, 2019.

Dave Sidaway /

jpg

“All is going well for me now. I have a major mandate as ambassador of the Jewish General Hospital Foundation. And I have a new girlfriend. And that maybe explains why I have lost all that weight,” Coderre says, in quite the segue.

A year ago, Coderre was two-thirds of the man he once was. Now he’s veering closer to half.

At his heaviest, Coderre tipped the scales at 305 pounds. He’s nearer 170 now. He credits cycling and boxing for his weight loss and newfound fitness, not to mention his eschewing of junk food. Those who run into Coderre these days barely recognize him. Once the subject of many a cruel weight joke, Coderre, now donning particularly natty attire, finds it amusing that some suggest he could pass for a GQ model.

“I’m past my midlife crisis and I feel great. It’s a new me. I feel very grounded. I really love what I’m doing.”

So, no chance of Coderre taking another shot at becoming mayor?


Former mayor Denis Coderre sparring with Ali Nestor.

Allen McInnis /

Montreal Gazette

“I didn’t say that,” he is quick to respond and without any trace of a chuckle.

“For now, it’s no. But a lot of people are talking to me about this, and there’s a lot of pressure from people who would like me to come back. I have time. Next election is nearly two years away.”

It’s been a little more than two years since he lost the mayoralty to Valérie Plante. Many believe that if not for the ill-fated Formula E races, among other financial excesses incurred during the city’s 375th birthday bash, Coderre would probably have been re-elected mayor.

Coderre makes no excuses: “There were many reasons that we lost. But I don’t have regrets. We were innovators and we established benchmarks in a lot of areas, including electric vehicles.

“I guess I was inspired in part by the people side of Camillien Houde and some of the visionary side of Jean Drapeau, which explains a lot of things. The bottom line is I really love the city and there are many ways to make it flourish.

“Before 2013, Montreal was being bad-mouthed a lot because of corruption and other things. We were not even a player. During our four years, we had a wonderful team and made things happen, internationally and locally. People wanted a piece of the city again. We were on the map.”

It sure sounds like Coderre is itching for a political comeback, and much more on the municipal than the provincial front — and not at all federally.

“I’m a resilient person. I’ve learned from all my friends that failure can also be an opportunity. I’m writing a book now on the future of cities. I’m still in contact with mayors from around the world.”

Coderre, a former federal cabinet minister who represented the constituents of Bourassa from 1997 to 2013, then reiterates one of his favourite rejoinders: “When I was 4 years old, I was elected president of my pre-kindergarten class. Politics has been part of my DNA all my life in many, many ways.

“It’s still a bit early to decide what I’ll do. But I just wrote something on my Facebook page that 2020 will be a year of decisions for me. That’s for sure.”

bbrownstein@postmedia.com

twitter.com/billbrownstein

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Extremist Politics Threatens Chile's Economic Miracle – Bloomberg

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Chile has for decades been Latin America’s most stable nation and one of its most prosperous. Its pro-business outlook has drawn foreign direct investment and fueled economic growth, and its record in reducing poverty has been impressive. Much of that is now thrown into question. After the recent first round of elections, the two front-runners for the presidency are extremists — an ultraconservative who seems nostalgic for the dictatorial rule of Augusto Pinochet, and a leftist who promises not merely to reform but to dismantle Chile’s economic model. It’s hard to say which of these agendas might prove more toxic.

The candidate of the far right, José Antonio Kast, emerged with a narrow lead heading into the runoff vote on Dec. 19. His platform is thin on economics and heavy on social conservatism and authoritarian messaging. His counterpart on the left, Gabriel Boric, promises radical change to combat inequality, rein in capitalism and dethrone market forces. “If Chile was the birthplace of neoliberalism,” he explains, “it will also be its grave.”

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Now, more than ever, the N.W.T. government needs party politics – CBC.ca

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This column is an opinion by former Yellowknife MLA Kieron Testart. For more information about CBC’s Opinion section, please see the FAQ.

In 2019 near the end of my term as an MLA, I proposed implementing a caucus system that, among other things, would allow for political discipline of MLAs. At the time MLAs rejected any changes that would limit their jealously-guarded independence. What they failed to recognize was that this proposal was not about imposing discipline, rather it was about enabling politicians to effectively discipline MLAs when required. 

The Norn affair and the pronounced lack of any real accountability in the legislature over the government’s failings are the consequences of being governed by a gang of loosely aligned political independents who lack common vision and leadership.

This point was made by MLA Rylund Johnson who said, “In party systems, the party whip would probably make sure this never happens. Party caucuses would kick members out and make them irrelevant …Those aren’t tools that we have in consensus government.”

The consensus system is based on little more than good intentions and is powerless to address its own failings, with MLAs routinely using their constituents as a convenient smoke screen for their own bad behaviour. 

Sound familiar? It should, it happens all the time with the recent example of Steve Norn being the most spectacular failure of political will to date in the 19th Assembly.

Norn’s sustained attacks on his colleagues and the legislature were left virtually unchecked by MLAs, who stood by silently. Public confidence in elected officials has been shaken to the point that two former premiers have taken the extraordinary step of publicly criticizing sitting MLAs. Scandal and policy failures have become the chief commodity of the Legislative Assembly and Caroline Cochrane’s government.

While other provinces acted swiftly with new spending and policies to bolster their economies and attract new health-care workers, the Cochrane government has wrung its hands, paralyzed by bureaucratic inertia. We have watched in real time as our health-care system has buckled and broken under the strain of the pandemic, with no plan yet released for economic recovery after months and months of delay. And despite the outcry from Northerners for their government to act, the “unofficial opposition” of regular MLAs is absent, or at least silent, unable to muster the courage and unify to demand better government from the cabinet. 

In the Northwest Territories the people have a choice in who gets to take power but not in how that power is used, nor can they hold the powerful accountable during elections. MLAs appoint the premier and cabinet, who are solely accountable to each other. This means that voters have no say over who forms government or what that government does for its four-year term and cannot hold that government accountable for its decisions. This leaves accountability in the hands of an undisciplined committee of regular MLAs who lack resources, staff, and experience to provide alternatives to cabinet policies. Public policy development and implementation are the sole domain of unelected bureaucrats in the government’s senior management.

Despite the constant mythologizing of consensus government as a superior form of government, founded in the traditions of Indigenous Peoples, the fact is none of the N.W.T.’s self-governing Indigenous nations use consensus systems, nor did Indigenous people design the system when it was first implemented decades ago. That honour falls to federal bureaucrats when they devolved responsible government to our young territory. Despite their frustration, Northerners continue to consent to an undemocratic democracy where their electoral choices have been reduced to little more than an overblown hiring competition. 

A culture of silence has taken root in the N.W.T.’s democratic discourse. The fear of reprisal from those in power forces many to whisper in the back of coffee shops and speak anonymously to reporters, when they ought to be able to freely express their own views and see those views transformed into political action.

There was a time that the consensus system served Northerners well. But that time has passed, made clear by persistent scandal and public policy implosions that have not stopped since the last election. We’ve seen devolution create a modern N.W.T. granted nearly full responsibility over its land and resources. It is now time for evolution to transform our political system into a modern multi-party democracy that can provide unity and real action on the most pressing issues.

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Italy, France to deepen ties as Merkel’s exit tests European diplomacy

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The leaders of Italy and France will sign a treaty on Friday to strengthen bilateral ties at a time when European diplomacy is being tested by the departure of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The Quirinale Treaty is aimed at enhancing cooperation between Paris and Rome in areas including defence, migration, the economy, culture and trade.

The signing ceremony comes shortly after a new coalition pact was agreed in Germany, ending 16 years of rule by Merkel, who was the undisputed leader of Europe and forged especially close ties with successive French leaders.

The new Berlin administration is expected to be more inward looking, especially at the start of its mandate, and both Paris and Rome are keen to deepen relations in a period clouded by economic uncertainty, the pandemic, a more assertive Russia, a rising China and a more disengaged United States.

“Macron’s intention is to create a new axis with Italy, while it is in Italy’s interest to hook up with the France-Germany duo,” said a senior Italian diplomatic source, who declined to be named.

RENAISSANCE

Originally envisaged in 2017, negotiations on the new treaty ground to a halt in 2018 when a populist government took office in Rome and clashed with Macron over immigration.

Relations hit a low in 2019 when Macron briefly recalled France’s ambassador to Italy, but there has been a renaissance this year following the appointment of former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi to lead an Italian unity government.

A French diplomatic source rejected suggestions that the new axis between the European Union’s second and third largest economies represented any re-alignment of Paris’s diplomatic priorities.

“We have never played a jealousy triangle with European partners. These bilateral relations, when they are strong … complement each other,” the source said.

The Quirinale Treaty, named after the Italian president’s residence and loosely modelled on a 1963 Franco-German pact, is expected to lead to Paris and Rome seeking common ground ahead of EU summits, just as France already coordinates key European policy moves with Germany.

Full details of the pact have not been released but there will be special interest in sections covering economic ties and cooperation in strategic sectors.

French companies have invested heavily in Italy in recent years, but Italian politicians have accused Paris of being less forthcoming when Italian businesses seek cross-border deals.

Earlier this year, state-owned shipmaker Fincantieri’s bid to take over its French peer Chantiers de l’Atlantique collapsed, thwarted by EU competition issues.

Italian officials suspected Paris actively sought to undermine the deal behind the scenes.

 

(Editing by Gareth Jones)

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