London council votes against asking mayor to step aside
London, Ont., Mayor Joe Fontana makes a statement during a news conference Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012, about charges he is facing after an RCMP investigation. (The Canadian Press/Dave Chidley)
The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, December 12, 2012 11:02AM EST
LONDON, Ont. -- A motion calling on the mayor of London, Ont., to step aside while criminal charges relating to his time as an MP are dealt with was defeated Tuesday night.
Council voted 8-5 against the motion before a packed gallery filled with both supporters and critics. Mayor Joe Fontana abstained and one councillor was absent.
RCMP charged Fontana in November with fraud under $5,000, breach of trust by a public official and uttering forged documents.
The charges are related to allegations he inappropriately used federal government funds while he was a member of Parliament to help pay for his son's wedding reception in 2005.
Fontana, a former federal cabinet minister, has denied any wrongdoing and is to appear in court on Jan. 8.
The motion brought forward by Coun. Joni Baechler -- which passed at a civic committee -- was a symbolic one.
Under Ontario's Municipal Act, Fontana can't be forced to resign.
Baechler says it was important for city council to debate the issue in public.
"I think what's been accomplished is we've had a discussion about one of the most important issues in the city of London," she said.
"Members of council have had the opportunity to voice their concerns at a duly constituted council meeting. We have no other opportunity to do so."
Some councillors expressed concern the motion may have violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Coun. Stephen Orser was pleased the motion was shot down.
"I don't want a lot of litigation and a lot of legal problems in the city of London, so yes, I'm glad that we didn't go down that road."