One week ago, Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay vowed he would not hide from the baroque corruption scandal that has overtaken his city and his administration. Two days later he hurriedly left town on a surprise vacation. And Monday, Mr. Tremblay resigned with a year left in his mandate, protesting his innocence on his way out the door and vowing that history would vindicate him by exposing “the hidden agenda” of people he says “betrayed” him. As political exits go, it ranks among the most graceless and self-serving in long memory.
To be sure, Mr. Tremblay has not been charged with or convicted of any crime. So far he has not been linked during testimony at the Charbonneau corruption inquiry to any of the extravagant tales of envelopes stuffed with cash delivered by contractors seeking construction contracts. And he has denied allegations made at the inquiry about his knowledge of illegal campaign spending and about a safe at his party headquarters that was so bursting with cash that the door couldn’t be closed.
But his shift from defiance to departure in so short a period has left his protestations of innocence as porous as the concrete in a Montreal overpass. Mr. Tremblay betrayed himself in his resignation statement as a willfully ignorant dupe. He says his first act when he took office in 2001 was to ask about rumours of envelopes of cash circulating around City Hall, but that he was satisfied to let it drop when a city manager told him there was no proof of this happening. He continued for years to allow advisers to reassure him there was no evidence of the graft and illegal fundraising revealed by witnesses at the inquiry.
Mr. Tremblay now says he was betrayed by colleagues he believed to be trustworthy. The only people who have been betrayed in this sordid mess are the taxpayers of Montreal, who have overpaid by the millions for a municipal infrastructure that is subpar and dangerous. Mr. Tremblay is no victim; he is just the latest in a string of Montreal officials who have abandoned their city.