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Recall petition against Calgary’s mayor deemed insufficient

Click to play video: 'Official Calgary recall petition results prompt calls to change rules'
Official Calgary recall petition results prompt calls to change rules
WATCH: While the petition to recall Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek officially fell short, a randomized sample found none of the signatures collected met verification rules. As Adam MacVicar reports, that has led to calls for the province to make changes to the rules. – May 13, 2024

A petition aimed at ousting Calgary’s mayor has officially fallen short, and was deemed insufficient following the verification process.

The results were presented to city councillors and Mayor Jyoti Gondek at a special meeting of council Monday morning.

City clerk Kate Martin said the petition garnered 69,344 unverified signatures, or 5.39 per cent of the city’s population.

The threshold to recall Gondek, according to provincial legislation, was 514,284 signatures from Calgarians who are eligible to vote, or 40 per cent of the city’s population.

“We have a lot of work to do as a council, we have really important decisions to make on behalf of Calgarians and I’m glad we don’t have this distraction anymore,” Gondek told reporters following the meeting.

The development came as no surprise as Landon Johnston, the man who launched the recall petition, said he didn’t meet the threshold to recall Gondek when he handed in the signatures last month.

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“Even with the lack of sufficiency on our petition, we have accomplished a lot and I’m proud of that,” Johnston told Global News on Monday.
However, a randomized sample of 369 signatures found none of the signatures collected met the verification requirements as laid out in the provincial legislation.

Martin said all were missing a notice of recall petition, 27 had an insufficient or blank address, 12 had insufficient affidavits, and six didn’t include a witness signature.

Two were missing the petitioner’s signature, another two were missing dates or had illegible handwriting and there was one instance of a petitioner witnessing their own signature.

Another signature in the sample was a duplication, according to the city’s verification process.

“The number of invalid signatures in the sample was 369, and therefore 100 per cent of signatures were invalid and the total number of verified signatures is zero,” Martin told council.
David Duckworth, the city’s chief administrative officer, said he asked for the signatures to go through the verification process even though that was not required in the legislation.

“I believed that it was important to provide additional transparency to the public and parties involved in the process about the recall petition that was submitted,” he told city council. “It was a learning opportunity.

“I wanted to test the parameters of the Municipal Government Act and share our learnings with the minister of Municipal Affairs, who is accountable to the legislation guiding the recall petition process.”
Johnston expressed frustration with the petition process, and lack of guidance from city and provincial officials when he inquired.

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“The process itself was very difficult,” Johnston said in an interview. “The lack of help from the city and the provincial government, everyone just kept blaming each other for the legislation.”

Johnston said, despite lobbying for changes to the legislation, he won’t be holding his breath that amendments are coming that would “make it easier for them to get out of office.”

He added he realized he was missing the notice of recall petition halfway through the process.
Although there are continued costs related to the recall petition moving forward, to date the city said the recall process has cost $30,500.

“The provincial government needs to think about what it just cost us to verify that none of those signatures are valid,” Gondek said.
In a statement to Global News, Heather Jenkins, a press secretary for the Minister of Municipal Affairs, said the recall petition form on the government’s website has been updated “to be more clear.”

“If passed, Bill 20 will transfer the responsibility for validating recall petitions from the chief administrative officer to the ministry of Municipal Affairs to make the process less onerous on municipalities,” Jenkins said.

“Municipal Affairs is better suited to administer and report the results of these petitions.”

The City of Calgary received notice of a recall petition targeting Gondek at the end of January, which was made public on Feb. 5 after it was verified and found to be in compliance with the recall criteria laid out in the Municipal Government Act.

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Johnston had 60 days to collect the signatures, which were handed in to Elections Calgary on April 4.

That kickstarted a 45-day process to count the signatures.

According to Martin, the petitioner has two days to destroy copies of the recall petition and the city has until June 24 to destroy the information in the petition.

The legislation states that an elected official can only face one recall petition per term, meaning no more recall petitions can be filed against Gondek with more than a year left in her current term.

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