Mayor Tremblay quits

Posted By: Canadian Press · 11/5/2012 7:09:00 PM

Montreal's mayor has resigned in the midst of a corruption scandal, becoming the highest-profile political casualty of the controversies currently rocking Quebec.

Gerald Tremblay said he had done nothing wrong but was stepping aside for the greater good of a city that is now politically paralyzed. Large construction contracts have been frozen and even the municipal budget has had to be rewritten in recent days.

"I cannot help anymore, given the circumstances," Tremblay said in a solemn resignation announcement late Monday at city hall.

The 70-year-old mayor held onto office just long enough to delay an election to replace him — which would have been triggered had he resigned only a few days earlier.

Tremblay avoided the public eye last week and took two days off work. Because he left after Nov. 3, one year before the next scheduled election, provincial law says he can now be replaced with an interim mayor chosen by the city council that is controlled by his scandal-plagued party.

He insisted he was unaware of corruption in his administration and only learned about it after the fact, saying Monday that he felt betrayed by the people who had abused his trust.

Tremblay cast himself as a victim of wrongdoing.

"My father always told me not to go into politics because it was dirty and people would destroy me," Tremblay said, adding that his love of Quebec and Montreal drew him to provincial and municipal politics over a 25-year career.

"I dedicated myself fully to the success of Montreal — with Judeo-Christian values of charity, solidarity, integrity, respect, openness."

Monday's announcement came after years of scandal that, over time, inched uncomfortably close to the mayor. Tremblay's onetime closest associates have either been slapped with criminal charges or been accused of corruption at an ongoing inquiry.

The latest, sharpest blow came last week: a witness at the inquiry said Tremblay was not only aware of illegal financing within his political party but was indifferent to it.

This was after the mayor had spent more than three years telling Montrealers that he'd been unaware of any corruption within his party or administration.

In making his resignation announcement, Tremblay denied that the 2004 meeting ever even happened. He said other recent allegations against him have been motivated by "hidden agendas" that would be exposed someday.

"That meeting never took place. Those allegations are false," Tremblay said of the testimony from former aide Martin Dumont, who said the mayor got up and left the room during a 2004 meeting the moment illegal party financing came up.

"I am going through a period of unbearable injustice... One day, justice will be done."

True or not, the latest allegation from his former party worker, in testimony at the Charbonneau inquiry, was incendiary enough to torch his administration. There had already been calls for his resignation. Now he found himself suddenly struggling to pass a budget.

Within only two days last week, his administration was forced to back down from a budget that had included property-tax hikes.

The tax increase had caused enough of a backlash that even the provincial government weighed in on it. The PQ government echoed the sentiments of angry citizens who fumed at the idea of having to pay more to an administration whose legitimacy had been so tarnished.

Amid the outcry, Tremblay decided to take a short break last week. He skipped work for two days and cancelled a pair of public appearances. The timing of his no-show was politically significant.

If Tremblay had quit before Nov. 3, one year ahead of the 2013 municipal election, it would have triggered an early mayoral vote. A resignation less than one year before an election, under Quebec law, means city council can pick a replacement. Tremblay's party controls council.

He turned 70 in September.

A lawyer by trade, he was called to the Quebec Bar in 1970. He also holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.

A former Quebec provincial politician, Tremblay was elected to the provincial legislature as a Liberal in 1989 and he served as industry minister until 1994.

His entry into municipal politics was propelled a decade ago by the last Parti Quebecois government's plan to merge the island of Montreal into one megacity.

The plan was, ironically, led by his current adversary at city hall, Louise Harel, who was the provincial municipal-affairs minister.

Tremblay harnessed the angst and anger over the plan, getting overwhelming support from suburban and anglophone voters and sweeping to power in 2001.

He was re-elected in 2005 and again in 2009 for his third term as mayor. Less than 40 per cent of Montrealers bothered to vote last time. Allegations had already begun surfacing about irregularities in the awarding of public contracts and illegal political financing.

Tremblay survived the vote, partly because the main opposition party led by Harel dealt with controversies of its own.

He was contrite following his win.

"I want Montrealers to know that I know the mandate they've given me comes with great responsibility," Tremblay said following his narrow 2009 victory. "I'm aware that the confidence of Montrealers has been put to the test."

Photo: Canadian Press

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  1. steve posted on 11/05/2012 08:56 PM
    It's really a shame, because i think he genuinely cared about Montreal. The corruption was there long before him and wiil always remain. He never profited personally.It's just another large sad part of what they call -culture- in Quebec!!(Just ask Mcleans magazine)
  2. Al posted on 11/06/2012 05:18 AM
    He got elected on an anti-merger platform and then did an about-face on the issue once in office. He surrounded himself with political opportunists (some of whom abandoned any previous principles to join the party with the best shot at power) and corrupt financial opportunists.

    I do believe that he did not personally take part in or benefit from the corruption, but either he knew what was going on right under his nose, in which case he is simply lying, or he did not know, in which case he was simply incompetent.

    If, as he said, he was made aware of the infamous brown envelopes upon his arrival in 2001, why did he allow it to continue for years, making changes to the contract process only in his third mandate?

    His resignation speech itself is typical of his term as mayor, filled with denials and excuses.
  3. Cliff posted on 11/06/2012 06:04 AM
    Hmm, Just like the Laval mayor and oh yeah Nixon. DIrty to the core. My question is how come the Income tax depts of the provincal and Federal governments do not charge these sc*m bags with filing false tax report and tax evasion. Go after the city workers like inspectors that take envelopes.
  4. Deborah Ann posted on 11/06/2012 07:23 AM
    Well as far as I can say is he should have done more in his years of serving the public by looking into why things are costing so much, why the budgets go over the planned budgets and maybe he would not be going through this today. I really think he took a blind eye to all that was going on and now us the tax payers pay the price. I dont feel sorry for him at all and after so many years as mayor he is leaving with his head down. Enjoy your pension on our expense Mr. Tremblay.
  5. karin posted on 11/06/2012 09:41 AM
    The whole executive committe should resign if the mayor had to be resign.
  6. Jerry posted on 11/06/2012 03:01 PM
    This could be a big waste of time if people (the government officials and bribing contractors) don't do some time in jail or at least pay appropriate fines. It's like someone robbing a bank for $5,000,000.00 and doing 5 years in jail. A person would come out a millionaire. Where can anyone find a job that would pay $5,000,000.00 for 5 years of work.....In other words, 'crime does pay'. So I want to hear some jail time for some fines and stop this 'feeling sorry' for them and hearing all this BS excuses like 'everyone was doing it or it was being done before I got there"... Like the man always says, If you do the crime, then you are going to do the time...
  7. Jerry posted on 11/06/2012 03:09 PM
    Tremblay, I remember very well when everyone was criticizing the very expensive proposed installation of the water meters. Everyone was pointing out to you how the bigger city of Toronto did it for much less and you were too blind or ignorant or uncaring to question why it was costing so much more for Montreal... You should have never been elected but unfortunately, you were the lesser of two evils. As far as I'm concerned, all you did for Montreal was jam up city streets with bicycles and tax Montrealers from every direction. You never once considered reducing costs but always increasing taxes... You were like a young newly wed wife with a gold credit card with no limit.... and now we have to pay for your ridiculous spending..... Well, enjoy your retirement and now you can cash in on those secret bank accounts in some distant country.....
  8. Rod posted on 11/06/2012 09:28 PM
    Mr. ex-mayor, I have no doubt that you are in fact a good and decent man but quite honestly, sir, I cannot accept what you did. You should never have run for office. Consistently putting the blame on others is absolutely not a trait of a good leader. You failed miserably and you will have to live with it.
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