A political death watch intensified in the Montreal area where a pair of scandal-plagued mayors were the target of speculation Monday about their impending resignation.
Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay was set to make a public address at city hall tonight at 7 p.m. ET, according to a sudden late-afternoon announcement by his office.
Television crews had been gathering all day outside his office as he returned to work; he had cancelled public appearances following the latest allegations to emerge from Quebec’s corruption inquiry. Meanwhile, the city suspended a fourth employee Monday, an engineer, pending an internal investigation.
A few kilometres north, in Laval, Que., a statement from that municipality said its embattled mayor had not decided to resign – at least not yet.
“The mayor is continuing his period of rest and reflection,” said the statement from the city’s executive committee. “Once his decision is taken, it will be shared with you.”
He has been on leave for unspecified medical reasons. The statement was issued to rebut a news report that said Mr. Vaillancourt would resign on Tuesday or Wednesday.
A witness at a public inquiry recently accused Mr. Vaillancourt of pocketing kickbacks from construction contracts. He has also been accused, over the years, of offering provincial politicians cash bribes. Mr. Vaillancourt has angrily denied those accusations.
Police, however, have recently raided the mayor’s home and residences in Laval, a suburb that is Quebec’s third-largest municipality.
Meanwhile, another embattled mayor, Montreal’s Gerald Tremblay, was back at work Monday after also having taken time off at the end of last week.
But he remained out of sight, as television news crews gathered outside his office.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Tremblay said the mayor was at his desk and had several meetings planned. Martine Painchaud added that there were no public events on his schedule for Monday or Tuesday.
“I don’t think he has any public events tomorrow but, as for his private agenda, I don’t any information,” she said. “There are a lot of rumours going around (in the media) and I don’t know where they get their rumours from.”
Mr. Tremblay has never been accused of benefiting financially from corruption. But a witness at the inquiry last week testified that he was aware of, and indifferent to, illegal financing within his political party.
His sudden departure last week was brief but significant.
He has survived the one-year Nov. 3 deadline before the next municipal election. Under provincial law, had he resigned before Nov. 3 there would have been an early election. If he quits now, however, city council will pick a temporary mayor and the council is controlled by his party.
But the mayor’s grip on power may be loosening.
The budget he presented last week, which included property tax hikes, is apparently being rewritten following stern criticism from the provincial government.
The city also announced that it would suspend another employee, engineer Gilles Vezina, following three earlier suspensions. The city announced Monday that it would stop paying those suspended while it conducted an investigation.