Calgarians will have access to a mechanism to recall municipal officials as soon as next week, city councillors heard from administrators on Tuesday evening.
It’s part of the UCP government’s legislation that would give citizens the power to initiate a process that could lead to removing and replacing elected officials, including members of the legislature, municipal politicians and school board trustees.
“A municipality may not pass a bylaw that modifies the requirements of a recall petition process,” Calgary’s returning officer Kate Martin told council. “This means that members of council do not have that regulatory role with respect to that recall petition process under the current provincial legislative framework.”
According to an overview of the recall process presented to city council on Tuesday, a petitioner must submit a notice of recall petition to Elections Calgary, and will have 60 days to gather signatures of eligible electors in the ward or municipality.
For a petition to be successful, it must have signatures from at least 40 per cent of the population of the ward, or municipality for the recall of the mayor, but all must be eligible electors.
Each signature must be witnessed by a person 18 years of age or older, and must include a signed affidavit to be reviewed by elections officials.
A recall petition can’t be signed in digital form, according to city officials.
If a petition meets the requirements and is successful, the mayor would be requested to call a special meeting of council at which the elected official in question would be recalled from their position.
According to Lori Williams, an associate professor of policy studies at Mount Royal University, the process in the provincial legislation to recall an elected official is “onerous.”
“The percentages set by the province already set the bar pretty much insurmountably high,” Williams told Global News. “In virtually every ward, fewer people voted in the last election than would be required to sign this petition.”
But with only eligible electors able to sign a recall petition, the number of people required to meet the 40 per cent threshold for a successful petition vary ward-by-ward.
According to preliminary data from the city, a minimum of 53 per cent of eligible electors in Ward 11 would be required to sign a recall petition to meet the threshold, the least among all wards in the city.
Ward 5, preliminary data shows, would require 99 per cent of eligible electors to provide their signature for a recall petition to be successful.
“It was an unreasonably high bar in the first place and it becomes impossibly high in some wards just because of their composition,” Williams said.
Under the provincial legislation, a notice of recall petition may only be submitted once per member of council in a term.
“It makes the process potentially something that can be gamed in such a way that a councillor who wants to avoid a recall petition from going forward, could simply pay the deposit, start a petition and then shut down the process and no one else would be able to try to do the same,” Williams said.
City councillors cannot submit recall petitions for another member of council in the same municipality, according to city officials.
Council also heard members of council nor the mayor would be able to appeal a recall petition, as part of the legislation, but would be able to request a judicial review.
The process isn’t unique to Calgary, Martin said, as it will be applied across the board to municipalities in Alberta.
“Obviously we have no say in this legislation and I’m not a big fan of recall legislation in the first place,” Ward 10 Coun. Andre Chabot said. “In my opinion, the best recall legislation is at election time.”