Just days after a petition to recall the mayor of Calgary was made public, residents in at least two other Alberta municipalities are looking to recall their leaders.
On Friday, Debbie Hunker issued a notice for a recall petition she started to recall the mayor of Wetaskiwin, Tyler Gandam.
“There’s a lot of us citizens that have lost confidence in Tyler’s ability to govern impartially,” Hunker said. “We had issues with some of the voting in council, as far at the Hope Mission, that has been a real hot topic here. Even though the majority of council is against the project it’s getting pushed through anyway.”
Hunker said many residents have taken issue with the size of the facility and number of beds in the proposed shelter and felt city council, and especially the mayor, were not listening.
“Council has responded in a positive way to the opposition and they are listening to us, only the chairperson, which is our mayor, is choosing not to listen to the citizens. It’s a very high bar,” Hunker said of the recall petition. “We’ll need to get about 5,100 signatures.”
“Everything we’ve been working on over the past year seems to have come to a head,” said Tyler Gandam, mayor of Wetaskiwin. “There’s been groups, or individuals, here in Wetaskiwin who have threatened recall legislation over the past few months, so I knew it was coming eventually, and it absolutely stems from the residents and business owners who are unhappy with the (homeless) shelter, the shelter location and shelter size.”
“In the last general election here in 2021, I was very clear on my position on wanting to find a permanent solution to the homeless population here in Wetaskiwin, it was certainly part of my campaign and what I wanted to do moving forward,” Gandam said.
“It’s (recall legislation) being weaponized by members of communities for elected officials that they don’t like or they don’t agree with what they’re saying or doing,” Gandam continued. “I think the intention of the legislation was for members of council that did something so egregious that the community had a way to make sure they’re held accountable. I think disagreeing in terms of what I support for a homeless shelter is really unfortunate and it takes away from the work that our administration and council is doing.”
On Wednesday, the Village of Donalda shared on its website that it too had received a petition to recall its mayor, Doug Booker. In a letter posted to the website, village chief administrative officer Kristie Vallet acknowledged receiving a notice of recall petition, saying “the petition was deemed compliant” and will be considered “sufficient if it includes signatures from a minimum of 40% of the population.”
Donalda’s current population is 219 which means the petition will require a total of 88 signatures to be considered sufficient.
In the letter, Vallet said the 60-day signature collection period began on Feb. 7 and will end on Apr. 6. The recall petition must then be reviewed by the Village Office on or before the 60-day signature collection period ends to be considered and only residents who are eligible to vote for the elected official named in the notice may sign the recall petition.
Heather Dahl organized the petition in Donalda and said she is part of a group of residents that have lost confidence in their mayor.
“We are confident our recall petition will be successful,” Dahl told Global News. “We started as a small group and we had more people show up every meeting. It’s good to see the community care about the future of our village.”
Dahl said the main issue behind the petition to recall the mayor is a lack of transparency.
“It really came to light when the new land use bylaw was introduced,” Dahl said. “He has taken away all our time allotted to address council said he was going to have a policy put in place to have us removed from council meetings if we speak out of turn.”
“It’s unfair and a giant waste of taxpayer time and money, but it has to play itself out,” said Doug Booker, mayor of the Village of Donalda.
Booker said he ran for the mayor’s chair in 2021 wanting to do something positive for his community. He said he was unsure of the reasons behind the recall petition.
“The legislation is skewed towards the complainant,” Booker continued. “But it’s a fact of life.”
Booker said he was not worried about the losing his job.
“They’ll just call another election, and I can run again.”
On Monday, the City of Calgary received notice of a recall petition against Mayor Jyoti Gondek, but that petition would need more than a half-million names in the next 60 days to remove her from office.
The city said in a news release Monday that the notice has been officially reviewed and deemed compliant with the Municipal Government Act. The act was updated by the Alberta government in 2022 to allow eligible voters to file petitions to recall politicians, including mayors and municipal councillors.
“This is the first notice of recall petition that has been received by the City Clerk’s Office since the legislation took effect,” city clerk Kate Martin said in the release.
Gondek’s office emailed a statement in response to the recall petition.
“In October 2021, Calgarians put their faith in me to be a mayor who could bring balance and stability to this city at a time when polarized ideologies stood to divide us,” the mayor said.
“I remain steadfastly committed to the work of building a future that holds opportunity and prosperity for everyone who lives here. We have work to do. Onward.”
Voters in Ryley, which is east of Edmonton, successfully removed Nik Lee as a councillor in June 2023 by getting 250 of the village’s 460 residents to sign a recall petition.
Some voters in Medicine Hat also tried to remove that city’s mayor with a recall petition last year but it failed to get enough signatures.
— with files from the Canadian Press