by Stephen Dafoe
A $500 fee and the signatures of 40 per cent of the electorate could remove a mayor, councillor or school board trustee if new legislation passes.
If approved, Bill 52, creates a process to removing and replace elected officials, including members of the legislative assembly (MLAs), municipal officials and school trustees during their term.
“Elected officials have a responsibility to Albertans, and Albertans should be able to hold those officials accountable throughout their term, not just at the ballot box,” said Premier Jason Kenney. “Albertans have told government for years that they want a greater say in the democratic process, and this legislation will help give them that voice.”
The Recall Act will require 18 months of a term to have passed before a recall is possible. At that time, an Albertan would apply to the chief electoral officer in the case of MLAs or the chief administrative officer of the municipality for mayors and councillors and the secretary of the relevant school board for school trustees.
The applicant would have 60 days to gather 40 per cent of the constituency’s eligible voters in the case of an MLA.
The Albertan would have 120 days to gather the signatures of electors representing 40 per cent of the population in the municipality or ward. For school board trustees, a petitioner would have120 days to gather signatures from 40 per cent of eligible voters in that school district or ward.
A successful recall petition for an MLA would lead to a formal vote of the electorate to determine if they are recalled or not. For municipalities and school boards, the successful petition is taken to a council or school board meeting and becomes effective immediately. A decision would then be made as to whether a by-election is needed.
In the case of an MLA recall, signatures would need to be verified by Elections Alberta.
Albertans deserve elected officials who uphold their promises and responsibilities,” said Minister of Justice & Solicitor General Kaycee Madu. “Through this legislation, Albertans will be able to make sure their representatives can be held even more accountable to those who voted for them.”
Albertans, third parties, including political action committees, will be limited in how much they spend to promote or argue against a recall. That information will be included in the regulation related to the legislation.
Heather Sweet, Alberta NDP Critic for Democracy and Ethics, said the Bill shows how distracted the Premier is by the rebellion in his own party.
“This Bill creates no jobs. This bill does nothing to create economic recovery. It’ll bring no new business into our downtown cores,” Sweet said. “And after introducing a bill that includes no plan for jobs, the Premier is now proudly announcing new laws that will do nothing to create jobs.”
Sweet when on to criticize Alberta’s position, one she said is lagging in Canada.
“This Bill creates a series of hurdles so high that it becomes virtually impossible to use in the real world,” Sweet said, noting in the case of controversial MLA Pat Rehn, his constituents would need to create the petition, hold a recall vote, and then hold a by-election to replace him. “I suspect Premier Kenney will drag his feet while watching his poll numbers,” Sweet said.
Sweet concluded by saying there are many unanswered questions on the Bill – namely what the limits will be on campaigning and whether it is an opportunity for wealthy donors to rerun democratic elections until they get the results they want. “We will insist that all campaign restrictions and limits will also apply to this process.