Motion to ask London, Ont., Mayor Fontana to leave set for vote

Mayor Joe Fontana makes his annual state-of-the-city address at the London Convention Centre on...

Mayor Joe Fontana makes his annual state-of-the-city address at the London Convention Centre on Wednesday Jan. 11, 2012. (MORRIS LAMONT/QMI Agency)

Patrick Maloney, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:39 PM ET

LONDON, Ont. -- Arguably the most dramatic motion in London political history will be debated Monday and one of its driving forces just wants the thing over with.

This, said Coun. Paul Hubert, is not a time for anything other than regret that criminal charges against Mayor Joe Fontana have left some politicians determined to ask him to leave office.

"The whole thing is uncomfortable," Hubert said. "It's uncomfortable that (Fontana) is in this situation, it's uncomfortable that our city and council is being talked about like this, right across the country.

"One of our rules is to give voice to the community and our constituents, and that's what we're going to be doing."

The motion to ask Fontana to leave, drafted by Coun. Joni Baechler, will be tabled at Monday's meeting of council's finance committee. If endorsed by the committee members, it would go to council for a final vote Dec. 11.

Three votes in favour are needed from the committee to endorse the motion. That looks likely.

The committee's voting members are Fontana, Baechler, Nancy Branscombe, Denise Brown and Hubert. Baechler, Branscombe and Hubert are certain to support it, and Brown, a Fontana ally, has also expressed support for it.

Fontana is under pressure to skip the vote due to the rather clear appearance of a conflict of interest. But it is up to any politician to declare a conflict and no one can force them to sit out a vote.

While symbolic, even historic, a non-confidence vote is meaningless because any decision to leave office is up to Fontana.

At a news conference last Thursday, 24 hours after being charged in connection with payments for his son's 2005 wedding reception, Fontana was adamant he's not leaving office.

Coun. Stephen Orser is arguably his most loyal council ally, and he's critical of the step-aside motion that's being pushed largely by three Fontana rivals, Baechler, Branscombe and Hubert.

Orser is quoted by radio station AM980 as saying the motion is "worthless" and carries no authority.

"We come right back to a motion that has no effect whatsoever and it won't force him to leave, so what's the point?" Orser is quoted as saying. "I'd like to get past this. I'd like to get on with running the city."

Though often at odds, Orser and Hubert actually agree with each other on that point.

Says Hubert: "We need to give voice to the community's concerns. Council needs to tell him (Fontana) how we feel . . . And then we need to get back to work."

patrick.maloney@sunmedia.ca

@patatLFPress


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