Time to call for recall
Wednesday, Nov 20, 2013 06:00 am
It’s time to implement recall legislation for all levels of government.
Why? Because consider this: Rob Ford seems to feel that despite admitting to crack smoking in a drunken stupor and then lying about it for months, despite acknowledging in a CBC interview Monday night he’s purchased pot since becoming mayor, despite raging at Toronto city council that its attempts to strip him of what powers they could, he still is telling people one day he’d like to run for prime minister and is certainly planning to run for re-election as Toronto’s mayor.
Ford suggested calling a snap election during Monday’s Toronto city council meeting so the electorate gets to decide. I don’t agree with Ford that he’d be re-elected, but I do agree with the theory that it should be the voters who get to ultimately decide if he’s tossed out.
That said, given the international laughingstock Toronto’s mayor has managed to become – you know you’ve made it when you’re a skit on Saturday Night Live – I can see why voters might want to hasten his exit and not wait for next fall’s municipal election.
I grew up in British Columbia, and here’s something I believe they do right on the provincial level: they have recall legislation.
I was somewhat astonished to discover this wasn’t common when I first peeked over the borders of my home province. It just makes sense. Enough voters banding together should be able to attempt to get rid of an elected representative they no longer feel is representing them in a satisfactory way. That’s just good democracy.
Lest you think British Columbians are recalling their MLAs willy-nilly, the rules around recall are fairly strict. The person who files the recall petition with the province’s chief electoral officer has 60 days to collect enough signatures.
Enough signatures is defined as 40 per cent of the voters who were registered to vote in that MLA’s electoral district in the last election and are still registered to vote in B.C.
There are even rules around spending, who can canvass and so on, all laid out in legislation.
Elections B.C.’s website states that, since 1995, 24 recall applications have been approved. Of those, six petitions were returned to Elections B.C., two of those made it to the point where signatures and addresses were being verified and only one made it all the way through that process.
In total, 23 of the petitions did not have enough valid signatures and the other one was halted because the MLA resigned.
So, recall legislation doesn’t automatically mean that we’ll all be facing constant federal, provincial and municipal by-elections.
But it does give us, the voters, a mechanism by which we could oust politicians from office.
And at the end of the day, shouldn’t it be the voters who decide which of their representatives stay or go? If I were a Toronto resident, I’d certainly not want council or the province making that decision for me. The voter should have the right to make that call.
So let’s put recall legislation in place across all levels of government clear across the country.
Victoria Paterson is the city hall reporter for the St. Albert Gazette.