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London council defeats motion asking mayor to step aside temporarily

Protesters hold signs and red cards that signify a foul and an ejection (as in soccer) during the debate on a motion asking London Mayor Joe Fontana to take a leave of absence with pay until final disposition of the criminal charges against him in London, Ontario, Tuesday, December 11, 2012. The motion was defeated by a council vote of 8-5.

Dave Chidley/THE CANADIAN PRESS

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 has been defeated.

Council voted 8-5 against the motion on Tuesday night before a packed gallery of both supporters and critics. Mayor Joe Fontana abstained and one councillor was absent.

RCMP charged Mr. Fontana in November with fraud under $5,000, breach of trust by a public official and uttering forged documents.

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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.

Mr. Fontana, a former federal cabinet minister, has denied any wrongdoing and is to appear in court on Jan. 8.

The motion brought forward by Councillor Joni Baechler – which passed at a civic committee – was a symbolic one.

Under Ontario's Municipal Act, Mr. Fontana cannot be forced to resign.

Ms. Baechler said it was important for city council to debate the issue in public.

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