Gérald Tremblay is an old political pro, and there is a saying among old political pros that there are situations in the course of events that demand human sacrifice.
In his resignation speech Monday, Montreal's mayor thus declared he was making "the ultimate sacrifice" in the higher interests of this city, to which he had "given the best of himself."
But while he professed himself "the victim of an insupportable injustice," the reality of his situation is that he was compelled to put his head on the block because the best of himself was by now, in the eyes of an overwhelming majority of Montrealers, so drastically lacking that he had lost the moral authority to continue as their mayor.
It is not hard to believe that Tremblay entered civic politics, as he said in his speech, to do what he could to make a success of Montreal. He enumerated an impressive list of achievements that truly have made Montreal a better place. In many respects it is, as Tremblay said, "a city of dreams" among the cities of this world.
But the tales of rampant corruption at city hall under Tremblay's reign have cast a nightmare pall over his administration, and over Montreal's image in the eyes of the world.
Tremblay said his father had warned him that politics is a dirty business. But he had been in politics long enough before he became mayor to know about the dirty business that goes on, and to do a better job of ensuring it did not prevail under his administration.
He may very well have been, as he said, betrayed by subordinates whom he trusted. He vigorously denied the damning allegations brought against him by witnesses at the Charbonneau Commission. But by this time too much evidence has surfaced, beyond the hearsay floated in commission testimony, that he did not probe deeply enough into what was going on under his nose, on his watch, and that he had waited too long to take decisive action on what he did know.
He said he had begged the commission to give him a hearing, but that the commission had been stalling him. Perhaps.
But nothing was stopping him from coming out and saying what he had to say and laying out what he knew.
Apart from the denials and self-justifications, Tremblay offered little in the way of information that might have enlightened Montrealers as to what he knew and when he found out about what there is to know.
It is a wretched situation the city now finds itself in: its elected mayor gone in disgrace, and his tainted party left holding the reins, with the responsibility of seeing the city through another year.
Tremblay has honourably taken responsibility for the failings of his governance. It is now up to all at city hall, including the two opposition parties, to take responsibility for seeing the city through this crisis.