Montreal residents were reeling on Monday with news of alleged dirty dealings and political disarray around their City Hall, triggered by the arrest of their mayor, Michael Applebaum, on serial corruption and fraud charges. Full details of his alleged crimes had not been made public.
The turmoil in the Quebec metropolis, which has had a reputation for years for crooked chicanery at the top of its political ranks, comes as Toronto, in the next door province of Ontario, continues to deal with the ongoing drama surrounding its mayor, Rob Ford, who since May has faced allegations that he has been caught on video tape smoking crack cocaine. Two news organisations say they have seen the tape, but it has not been broadcast.
Mr Applebaum became interim mayor last November when his predecessor, Gerald Tremblay, resigned amid corruption allegations. Mr Applebaum stood out as the first non-francophone mayor of Montreal in exactly 100 years. He made two promises: to sweep house and end corruption, and to eschew running in mayoral elections this autumn.
While he may now have no difficulty keeping the second pledge, the charges being laid against him now suggest that he may never have been the best person to honour the first. It’s believed that the charges filed against him relate to activities before his taking control of City Hall, when he was a mayor of one Montreal’s boroughs. Sources suggested they relate to property development projects dating from between 2006 and 2011.
“The corruption and collusion will no longer be tolerated,” Police Commissioner Robert Lafreniere said after the mayor’s arrest. “No one is above the law and you cannot hide from the law.”
It has barely been a month since the arrest of Gilles Vaillancourt, a former mayor of the neighbouring town of Laval, also on corruption charges. Prosecutors in that case said Mr Vaillancourt had essentially been running city hall as a criminal organisation, with money flowing beneath the table relating to serial local construction deals.
Mayor Ford of Toronto has denied using crack. But in addition to the phantom video, he also faces trouble because of a published photograph showing him standing arm in arm with three men in an area of Toronto that is notorious for its drug activities. Moreover, just last week, two of those men were arrested by police in a dramatic drugs-sweep of the neighbourhood.