London council votes down motion asking mayor to step aside temporarily

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.

The charges against Fontana 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, (JOE’-nee – BEK’-ler) — 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.”

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