Laval mayor resigns amid corruption allegations
Gilles Vaillancourt denies all wrongdoing
Gilles Vaillancourt, the beleaguered mayor of Laval, Que., has announced he is stepping down in the wake of mounting corruption allegations.
As he announced his resignation, Vaillancourt highlighted his love for Laval, saying that he has always acted in its interest.
"I’ve only had one desire, to make Laval a success," he said on Friday.
Vaillancourt continued to deny all allegations of corruption.
"We’re facing allegations that, even without proof, are altering the reputations of those in whom you have placed your trust. I am one of these people and I have been deeply hurt. Regardless of what I do or say, it is clear that the damage has been done," he said.
Provincial politicans react
Quebec's provincial politicans responded to Vaillancourt's decision on Friday, saying he made the right choice.
Marc Carrière, the official opposition critic for municipal affairs, said the mayor made a sage decision that will help sanitize the political environment of Laval.
"It appears that, following his reflection, the mayor no longer considers he has the moral legitimacy to govern the city of Laval," Carrière said.
He hopes authorities will shine a light on the events of the last few weeks and put an end to the many questions that remain unanswered.
"We are facing a situation without precedence … two of the three largest cities in Quebec have lost their mayors following allegations of corruption. The government must reassure the population," said André Spénard, Coalition Avenir Québec's critic for municipal affairs.
CAQ spokesperson and Justice Critic Jacques Duchesneau reacted to Vaillancourt's resignation by calling for an independent observer to monitor Vaillancourt’s party.
Vaillancourt has been mayor for 23 years, and for the last 10 of them, his PRO-des-Lavallois party has been unopposed at city hall.
In his final words as Laval’s mayor, Vaillancourt outlined Laval’s accomplishments during his tenure. He recalled how the city had grown from a "bedroom community," to an increasingly urban centre.
"When I look back on tall these years it’s with a deep sense of pride that I see all the changes in our city," he said.
"All I would ask is that you look at your city today and see what it has become. Look around you and remember what it was not long ago, and imagine the future that lies ahead of us."
Laval mayor the target of corruption allegations and raids
Vaillancourt announced on Oct. 24 he was taking a medical leave of absence, and on the same day the mayor's safety deposit boxes were searched by investigators with Quebec's anti-corruption squad, known by its French acronym UPAC.
That raid coincided with allegations against the mayor that surfaced at the Charbonneau inquiry into corruption in Quebec's construction industry.
A key witness, the former head of the now-bankrupt construction firm Infrabec, Lino Zambito, testified Vaillancourt collected a 2.5 per cent kickback on all public works contracts.
Also in recent weeks, the mayor's home, his office and other city departments have been the subject of a series of UPAC raids.
Vaillancourt continues to deny all allegations.