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It's time for recall legislation
Friday, 28 October 2016 - 11:15am
As voters grow weary of broken promises by the Trudeau government and promises which appear to be on track to be broken, like electoral reform, now would be a good time for frustrated voters to call for recall legislation.
For those who aren’t familiar with recall legislation, it’s currently in place in British Columbia, and several other jurisdictions around the world. The tool allows a voter to formally petition to have a politician removed from office.
If the petitioner gathers the required number of signatures from the politician’s constituents, the politician is essentially fired and a by-election occurs. Thus, the public doesn’t have to wait until the next election to take action against a politician who has lost their support.
British Columbia introduced the tool after asking voters in a 1991 referendum if they wanted such legislation; an overwhelming majority – 81% – voted in favour.
Since recall legislation was passed in 1995, there have been 26 attempts to recall provincial politicians in British Columbia, but none have succeeded. Thus it’s not a tool that people with an axe to grind have been able to abuse.
While no B.C. politician has officially been recalled, there have been two situations where recall legislation may have led to the departure of a politician before their term was up.
In one case, British Columbia’s elections body was in the process of counting and verifying the signatures collected when the politician in question decided to resign. In another case, Premier Gordon Campbell resigned his seat as MLA before voters could recall him. In Campbell’s case, voters across the province were outraged after he introduced a harmonized sales tax after promising not to during a provincial election just a few months prior.
In California, voters have had the ability to recall their governor since 1911. However, only one governor, Gray Davis, has ever been recalled. Some may recall Arnold Schwarzenegger famously winning the subsequent by-election; a fitting win for Arnold given he once starred in the movie “Total Recall.”
Perhaps the most important aspect of recall legislation is that it serves as a constant check and balance for politicians who think getting elected provides them with a license to do whatever they want for four years. Elected officials in such jurisdictions know that if they break a major promise, voters have the power to do something about it.
Recall could have come in handy for Manitoba voters when their former Premier, Greg Selinger, broke his election promise to not increase the province’s sales tax in 2013. Ontario taxpayers could have used the tool when Dalton McGuinty famously broke his promise not to increase taxes back in 2004. In Alberta, recall legislation could help voters right now who are powerless as Premier Rachel Notley brings in a costly carbon tax; something she too didn’t campaign on.
Certainly one can think of plenty of other cases where politicians – across the political spectrum – have broken promises or burned voters after getting elected. If preventing such problems sounds like a good idea, now would be a good time for voters to make the call for recall.
Colin Craig works for the Manning Centre and is the author of The Government Wears Prada
This column was published by Sun media (Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Calgary Sun papers) on October 28, 2016