In Quebec, it's one embattled mayor down and maybe one to go

MONTREAL – In this tale of two corruption-addled cities, it’s one mayor down and possibly one to go.

Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay is being grilled about his political future, a day after the mayor of next-door Laval announced he was stepping aside at least temporarily, citing health reasons.

Both municipalities have been rocked by testimony during a public inquiry about rampant corruption at city hall.

Tremblay says he plans to serve the last year of his four-year mandate but will soon have an announcement about his political future beyond then.

“The decision on my political future will never, never be linked to what you’re hearing nowadays (at the inquiry),” Tremblay told reporters Thursday at city hall.

“I can assure you that I was elected in 2009 for a four-year mandate… I will at least finish my mandate.”

While his city administration has come under fire, Tremblay has not personally been singled out for wrongdoing at the inquiry or accused of benefiting personally from any schemes.

His neighbour, Laval Mayor Gilles Vaillancourt, has been hit with far more scathing testimony. A witness accused him of pocketing kickbacks from construction bosses — something Vaillancourt denied.

Police have also raided two of Vaillancourt’s personal residences, along with his office, and they are reportedly sifting through bank safety-deposit boxes looking for large amounts of cash.

Several hours after the bank raids, Vaillancourt said he would step away from his duties on the advice of his doctor and reflect on his political future.

Vaillancourt has run Laval since 1989, with little political opposition. He has been re-elected with crushing majorities.

In Montreal, Tremblay, a former provincial Liberal cabinet minister, was elected a decade ago largely thanks to the support of former suburbanites angry with the then-PQ government’s municipal mergers.

Tremblay said Thursday that there has been corruption and collusion going on in public works — and he said it has been happening for many years.

But the mayor said he wasn’t aware of it and has been learning about the schemes the same way as everyone else: while watching the current corruption inquiry.

“Is there corruption or collusion at the city of Montreal? The answer is yes, but it has been going on for decades,” Tremblay said.

The inquiry has heard that Tremblay’s party pocketed a three per cent kickback from the value of construction contracts doled out by the city and that the man who collected that money was linked to the Mafia.

That testimony from ex-construction boss Lino Zambito has not been confirmed by other witnesses or proven in court.