Get out your broom Mr. Mayor

Montréal - élection 2009

After a campaign as lively, unpredictable, and unsavoury as any in living memory, Gérald Tremblay prepares today to spend another four years as mayor of Montreal.
He should start by throwing out his campaign platform and declaring a new principal goal for his third term: doing what can be done to clean out the Augean stable of contracting practices and party financing.
At deadline, council results were not clear, but we're hoping Tremblay will face a diverse council prepared to keep him on a short leash.
Neither Tremblay nor anyone else can be in any doubt that the scandals were the prime issue in this year's campaign. As we said here last April, without the mysterious goings-on at the Société d'habitation et de développement de Montréal, Tremblay could have campaigned for re-election from his hammock.
Today the housing-agency business has been all but forgotten in the tsunami of juicier scandals, real and alleged, that have spewed out of city hall since then, like sewage from a broken pipe. No wonder Tremblay's re-election was a close call. After winning 53.7 per cent of the votes cast is 2005, he was reduced this time to a mere plurality.
That he won at all was largely the product of the severe flaws of his principal opponents. You don't have to be a federalist to be relieved that Louise Harel will not become mayor. Her pretension to be a unifier, when she is exactly the opposite, was an insult to voters. As for Richard Bergeron, he will take some solace today in an improvement over his 2005 showing, but it seems clear to us that his brand of impractical eco-enthusiasm would serve the city poorly, and that in a race without scandals he would barely have been a factor.
Accordingly it is not really a surprise that Tremblay won the support, however grudging, of a plurality of those who bothered to cast votes. But the mayor must not mistake this limp support - nor the unimpressive turnout - for voter complacency. He must now live up to his campaign claim to be the best person to clean up city hall.
But how? Shady contracting practices - and rumours about them - are not confined to Montreal, as our Saturday story from city hall reporter Linda Gyulai made clear. Kickbacks, hiring preference, and other illegal dealings have been the bane of cities since Ur.
That's why a provincial inquiry is essential. Louise Harel rightly argued that a police inquiry, while valuable, has natural limits. The police can dig up a particular bone and gnaw on it, but only an inquiry can discern and lay out in plain view the full skeleton of the beast.
Premier Jean Charest has resisted an inquiry, but now that the voters have spoken, he will, we hope, admit that one is needed.
While an inquiry looks at practices across the metropolis, Montreal can move ahead more rapidly in cleaning itself up. We have learned this fall of a charmless attitude of "don't ask don't tell" in both major parties at Montreal city hall. That has to change.
Tremblay could send a positive signal by adopting a proposal by Bergeron, and putting a few capable opposition councillors onto the executive committee. That would break the one-party stranglehold at city hall, and send a clear signal of openness.
The swamp must be drained. How well this is done has already become, above even snow removal and taxes, the pre-eminent measure of good governance in Montreal for these next four years.

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