End of an era as Mayor Gerald Tremblay resigns
Published Monday, November 5, 2012 2:29PM EST Last Updated Tuesday, November 6, 2012 9:18AM EST
MONTREAL—After 25 years in politics, Mayor Gerald Tremblay resigned on Monday night.
The scandal-plagued mayor became the highest-profile casualty of the controversies unearthed by the province’s anti-corruption inquiry. Calling his resignation a “sacrifice,” Tremblay’s announcement closed an era that saw a number of the mayor’s former advisors arrested.
“I never betrayed you,” Tremblay told Montrealers, responding to allegations that he turned a blind eye to rot spreading throughout city hall.
"My father told me to never get into politics because it was dirty, and I would be destroyed," said Tremblay, expressing regret that his trust had been abused by misbehaviour at city hall. The mayor insisted that he reacted to corruption through his three terms after proof was brought to his attention.
In the hour before his announcement, Tremblay spoke to the increasingly fractious caucus of Union Montreal, the party he had lead for nearly a decade at the helm of Canada’s second largest city. The mayor had ducked cameras and reporters on his way into city hall.
After holding out against years of allegations, Tremblay suddenly left for a four day vacation last Thursday, citing a need to “reflect” after accusations brought forward by Martin Dumont, a former organizer for his party.
Dumont told the Charbonneau Commission that the mayor had been aware of illegal fundraising by Union Montreal and was indifferent to the brown envelopes being stuffed in his party’s coffers. At his announcement on Monday, Tremblay denied any wrongdoing.
Responding to a grocery list of scandals over the past decade, Tremblay expressed regret that tainted projects like the city’s ill-fated water meter contract had not been cancelled sooner. Despite a number of other infrastructure-related failings, Tremblay said he had remained skeptical and vigilant until the end.
Earlier in the day on Monday, the City of Montreal suspended a fourth employee based on testimony at the anti-corruption inquiry.
Unlike a number of city engineers who testified of kickbacks that totalled over $1 million, Tremblay has never been accused of financially benefitting from corruption.
“I now must suffer an unbearable justice. I never thought my life could be subject to such a fury in a society of law and justice,” said Tremblay, over not being asked yet to testify at the Charbonneau Commission. “One day, justice will prevail.”
With the mayor leaving office with less than a year left in his term, a city council controlled by the remnants of Tremblay’s administration will appoint an interim mayor within the next few days.
Riding a wave of public opposition to Montreal’s forced merger with neighbouring municipalities, Tremblay was first elected mayor in 2001. He had earlier served in the National Assembly as a Liberal from 1989 to 1996.
“With these crooks gone, the foundations of this city are strongly built,” said Tremblay, the 70-year-old lawyer keeping his emotions in check.
“I hope you find someone with the same passion for Montreal,” the mayor said, turning from the microphone and signalling the end of an era. “Have a good evening.”
A few kilometers to the north in Laval, Mayor Gilles Vaillancourt continues his time on sick leave, giving no sign that he will step down. Vaillancourt has run Laval for over 23 years. In the past month two of his homes and his office have been raided by the Surete du Quebec’s anti-corruption squad.
--with files from The Canadian Press.