Former Liberal MP and current London, ON mayor Joe Fontana
Credits: CRAIG GLOVER/QMI AGENCY
Ending a week of silence, Fontana told QMI Agency he's shrugging off the pressure from council colleagues urging he temporarily step aside until the payment details about his son's 2005 wedding reception are clear.
"I'm not going anywhere. No further comment," he said, as he tried to walk away from a QMI Agency reporter.
Asked whether he was concerned the investigation could cast a pall over city council business, he pointed to his poppy, saying "due process" is a Canadian cornerstone.
"I've been out for a whole week, I've done a number of events, I've spoken publicly . . . and you know what? Most Londoners are fair-minded people, right? And they believe in due process.
"That's what the poppy is all about, right? It's about due process."
That remark didn't sit well with one outspoken local war veteran, Pat Reidy.
"I don't think it's right," Reidy said of the comment.
"I don't think it's proper to be using the poppy with that kind of terminology," he said. "The life and laws we have here have got nothing to do with the poppy at all. It's for the guys who gave their lives for this country."
On Oct. 18 QMI Agency broke the story that questions were being asked about who paid for Fontana's son's 2005 wedding reception, when Fontana -- an 18-year former Liberal MP -- was a federal cabinet minister.
The RCMP is investigating whether federal government cheques totalling more than $20,000 were used to pay for the rental of the Marconi Club.
Fontana, in an Oct. 21 statement, said he'd found documentation of a "personal payment" to the club "during the time frame in question," but offered no details.
Shortly thereafter, he sent out another statement saying he'd hired London lawyer Gord Cudmore and would make no further comment.
Asked Monday when the public would see his documentation, he offered a terse "no comment."
His comments to QMI Agency marked his first in a full week, during which London was largely abuzz with questions and mounting frustration over the lack of details.
That public pressure finally became too much for some on council last Friday, when Coun. Sandy White -- a staunch Fontana ally -- told CJBK's Steve Garrison council should consider asking Fontana to step aside temporarily.
White was the first councillor to voice growing concerns -- and others have followed suit, namely Joni Baechler and Nancy Branscombe.
Monday, Branscombe contacted Fontana directly to suggest he step aside until the air is clear and all details are known.
"I think he needs to step aside," she told QMI Agency. "We're hearing it from the public. They may not be calling him (Fontana) but they're certainly calling us. And all this is putting councillors in a really uncomfortable position because we're getting a lot of pressure ...
"For the good of the city and the good of council, he should temporarily resign."
There is no mechanism by which council can force Fontana out, though it's possible he could be formally asked to consider doing so at Tuesday's council meeting.
Reidy, the London veteran, says he first met Fontana decades ago -- "when he first came here to London" -- and, like many citizens, he's seeking answers.
"I'm not conversant in what the hell he's done, other than what I read in the paper," he said. "He should just turn around and say he paid for the wedding or he didn't pay for the wedding."