UCP sets high bar for recall petitions in new bill

By Catherine Griwkowsky March 16, 2021

The government’s promised recall legislation was introduced Monday, which will allow voters to give an elected official the boot if enough constituents sign on to a recall petition.

In order to launch the process for recalling a provincial politician, 40 per cent of eligible voters in a riding must sign on before a petition can be validated. The same goes for school board trustees.

However, when it comes to municipal lawmakers, 40 per cent of a riding’s entire population must agree they should be ousted (that’s because municipalities don’t have access to provincial voter lists).

Justice Minister Kaycee Madu’s new Bill 52, Recall Act, fulfills a democratic reform plank from the UCP’s 2019 campaign platform. While the incoming provincial rules are based on British Columbia’s recall law, Alberta will be the first jurisdiction in the country to allow municipal politicians and school board trustees to be recalled.

For MLAs, a successful petition will result in Elections Alberta holding a separate recall vote in the riding. If a majority of voters vote in favour of recalling their provincial representative, it will trigger a byelection. That’s one extra step compared to municipal and school officials, who will be removed from office once a recall petition is successful.

Despite the high thresholds for an ousting, Premier Jason Kenney said the legislation will give Albertans a greater say in the democratic process.

“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,” the premier said yesterday.

NDP Democracy critic Heather Sweet noted that in order for voters in Lesser Slave Lake to replace Independent MLA Pat Rehn, who has been accused of spending very little time in his riding and ignoring meeting requests with local lawmakers, three separate steps must occur: a petition, recall vote and byelection.

Sweet also raised concerns about wealthy donors funnelling money into recall petitions to overturn democratic votes.

The financing of recall campaigns will be subject to the Elections Act and the Elections Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act, but exact spending limits will be spelled out in regulation, officials said.

Other rules and details: