MONTREAL - Gerald Tremblay, the former mayor of Montreal who was forced to resign in 2012 amid a municipal corruption scandal, said his political career was ended by the “betrayal” of one of the 12 apostles who sat on the city’s executive committee.
Tremblay broke his long public silence in an hour-long interview Thursday morning on a Montreal-based Catholic radio station that avoided the particulars of a kickback, bid-rigging and political financing scheme that profited Tremblay’s Union Montreal political party, a small group of construction firms and the Mafia.
But Tremblay said his deep faith and the support of his family and close friends helped him to get through the dark days that followed his resignation.
Tremblay quit on Nov. 5, 2012, after claims at the Charbonneau commission, a provincial corruption inquiry, that he had known about and ignored the tricks his party employed to get around election spending laws.
He denied the allegation, and later there was doubt cast on the claim, but it marked the point at which Union Montreal’s dirty dealings became too much for the public to accept.
Tremblay, 71, said he stepped down because he felt he could no longer help the city, which was his guiding principle over 25 years in politics.
“As long as I felt useful or able to help Montreal I was good, I was happy in what I did,” he told radio host Pierre Maisonneuve. “We all know what happened and I could no longer be of help in those circumstances and so I decided to quit.”
Tremblay’s resignation sent the city into a tailspin. City councillor Michael Applebaum was elected to replace Tremblay until the November 2013 municipal election, but Applebaum’s run ended when he was arrested on corruption charges in June 2013. Those charges are still before the courts.
Former federal Liberal MP Denis Coderre is the current mayor of Montreal.
A large part of the Tremblay interview was dedicated to his recent pilgrimage to the Catholic shrine in Santiago de Compostela in which he reflected on his life and religion.
Before leaving on the 550-kilometre walk across northern Spain, Tremblay said he had “turned the page” on the political and administrative disaster that developed while he was in charge of Canada’s second largest city between 2002 and 2012.
While he made no mention Thursday of Frank Zampino, his long-time political ally and chairman of Montreal’s executive committee, he claims he was “betrayed” by the man now charged with fraud, conspiracy and breach of trust — allegedly the person who controlled the contract-for-donation scheme run out of city hall. Zampino denied the allegations when he testified at the Charbonneau commission.
Asked whether he had been naive about the troubles that developed while he was in charge of the city, Tremblay said he was a victim and compared his plight to that of Jesus Christ.
“On the executive committee I had 12 people and it was one of them who betrayed me. So am I naive or did I have too much confidence in people? We could qualify it as a form of naivete, but I will continue to give people my confidence,” he said.
He has spent part of the past 20 months sorting out his papers, paring down his material belongings, renovating his various properties and looking for a new cause to which he can devote himself.
He also waiting for the day that his name might be formally cleared and his battered reputation may one day be restored.
“One day … justice will be delivered,” he said. “It’s a puzzle. The Charbonneau commission is working on a puzzle and that puzzle will, one day, reveal the reasons for which I had to quit.”