If you're Montreal mayor Gerald Tremblay, do you feel like the walls are closing in? You must, given the damning testimony given by former construction-company vice-president Lino Zambito at the Charbonneau Commission on corruption in the construction industry last week.
Zambito testified there was a systematic process for paying off municipal officials for contractors bidding on city work, with kickbacks going to Tremblay's Union Montreal party for good measure. It was the sort of bombshell testimony that observers had long been promised but which the commission had failed to deliver before last week and Zambito's appearance. Now, things are really starting to get interesting. The ingrained, systematic scheme to defraud taxpayers that Zambito claimed allowed some city planners, Mafiosi and apparently even Tremblay's hand-picked city manager, Robert Abdallah and former right-hand man Frank Zampino to make some extra cash on the side of their already-generous city salaries. It's not the first time such allegations have been leveled against Tremblay, his party and the way business is done at city hall – and either Tremblay is being less than honest about his knowledge of such schemes within the circle of the contract-awarding process, or he is simply the most incompetent manager in the history of administration.
Either way, it should come as no surprise that Tremblay would consider being less than honest. Tremblay defeated Mr. Mega-City himself, Pierre Bourque, in 2001 by courting the suburban vote, which he did by successfully enlisting sitting mayors and city councillors to join his party by telling them privately he wouldn't stand in the way of any de-merger campaign they would be a part of. Of course, Tremblay not only stood in the way of a de-merger campaign , but also rolled out a 'decentralization' plan that gave more power to borough offices over their day-to-day business, including extra taxation powers in an effort to smokescreen voters. It didn't work then, and all the rhetoric in the world won't repair the man's reputation among voters, who know better than to believe a mayor who has either had his head in the sand for 10 years or had his fingers in his ears while walking the corridors of city hall. We could be here for hours reciting all the ways the Tremblay administration has wasted our tax dollars (2005 World Aquatic Championships, anyone?), but the reality is that once the public starts to realize the emperor is not wearing any clothes, it's probably time to resign.