Controversy is swirling after reports London Mayor Joe Fontana nominated former politician George Avola for a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Avola is a long-time friend of the mayor, but the former commissioner of London Hydro was also convicted of municipal corruption charges in 1997.
Megan Walker, now the executive director at the London Abused Women’s Centre, was a city councillor at the time.
Back then she reported to police that she had been approached by Avola and offered money for her vote on a council issue. Now she says Avola receiving a medal would be an affront to the entire process.
Fontana has declined to speak specifically about who was nominated and who will be receiving medals, saying the matter was decided in a confidential council session, but he did say there had been a mix-up.
The nominations were made through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, one of a number of organizations involved in the process.
Fontana says that the city thought they were getting more medals than they actually received.
“And councillors, you know, were eagerly and enthusiastically wanting to put forward names of people, as I also did, only to be told there was a finite number of medals.”
Additional information is also coming to light that Councillor Joni Baechler and another council member declined to take part in the closed door nomination process, during which councillors voted to award themselves medals.
Baechler and Councillor Nancy Branscombe have also reportedly declined their medals.
Walker says “You should never, ever have voted to give yourself an award in the first place. You are there doing public service work for the people.”
A ceremony is planned for Wednesday evening to acknowledge the approximately 280 nominees, but the controversy is sure to continue.
Nomination process under fire
As more questionable nominations come to light, including repeat recipients and people nominating family members and co-workers, there are concerns the award will be devalued.
Former Liberal MP Glenn Pearson shares his award with his wife, and they were awarded theirs by NDP MP Irene Mathyssen.
“There was a lot of respect that went with it, but a lot of that is gone, at least in this town…when too much politics gets in things then these favours start happening.”
While the Governor General’s office, which administers the awards, doesn’t have concrete criteria, it has indicated it expects nominating partners to establish their own selection process.
The prime minister, senators and MPs can select recipients, as can a number of non-governmental organizations.
In total, 60,000 Canadians will receive the honour.