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Calgary’s mayor and councillors respond to recall petition

Calgary city council met for a scheduled public hearing meeting on Tuesday, but it was an off-agenda topic that took up most of the questions for councillors and the mayor from reporters.

A notice of a recall petition against Mayor Jyoti Gondek was filed late last month, and was confirmed to have met the criteria to proceed by the City of Calgary on Monday.

The notice was filed by Landon Johnston, a Calgarian and business owner, who told Global News he is frustrated with how both city council and the mayor have handled certain issues over their term.

“It came as a surprise,” Gondek said Tuesday. “I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t say it stings a little bit.”

In order for the recall petition to be successful, it must garner support from at least 40 per cent of Calgary’s 2019 population within 60 days.

Johnston would need to collect 514,284 non-digital and witnessed signatures by April 4.

In an interview with Global News, Johnston said he wanted to use the opportunity to put council and the mayor on notice, whether its successful or not.

“They’re way too comfortable,” he said. “No councillor is safe. Your job is not safe.”

Gondek said any feedback from the public is a chance to reflect on decisions, and noted there are opportunities for the public to reach out to the mayor and council to learn more about why certain decisions were made.

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“There are times when you have to consider the future of the city and you’re making decisions in the best interest of opportunity and prosperity well into the future.  There are folks that are troubled about why you’re not doing something more immediate,” Gondek said.

“I think the job is complex, the decisions we make are incredibly complex.  We’re happy to engage with the public at every turn, and we will stay focused on that.”

Ward 13 Coun. Dan McLean said he felt it was “obvious” why a recall petition was filed amid low approval ratings for this city council.

However, McLean said he isn’t planning on supporting the petition.

“I have no plans on signing it,” McLean said. “I think the time for a recall is at election time.”

Ward 10 Coun. Andre Chabot said he feels the petition’s lofty requirements make it unachievable, and that he won’t let it be a distraction in his role.

“I’m not sure who this person is and what their involvement is with city hall but to me, this appears as theatre,” Chabot told reporters.

It’s the first attempt to use recall legislation in Calgary since the province’s amendments to the Municipal Government Act came into effect in April 2022.

Calling the task ahead “monumental,” Johnston said he also wanted to use the petition to shed light on the process, which he said was set up to “deter people from petitioning the government.”

Lori Williams, an associate professor of policy studies at Mount Royal University, said the thresholds to remove an elected official need to be high, but Alberta’s legislation makes it “virtually impossible” for a recall to be successful.

“This may not be the appropriate threshold, but a high threshold of some sort is appropriate to avoid a minority derailing democratic elections,” she said.

Williams noted it’s important to distinguish between disagreements with policy or the outcome of an election, and misconduct by elected officials.

In a statement to Global News, Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver said, “It should not be an easy thing to remove someone from office when they have been duly elected by the community.”

“Alberta is the only province or territory in Canada that enables the recall of a municipal councillor. It is intended to hold elected officials accountable throughout their term, and not just during elections,” McIver’s statement said.

“We are reviewing the recall provisions, to increase councillor accountability and strengthen oversight after receiving feedback from stakeholder engagement sessions and online surveys.”

Calgary’s mayor did raise concerns with the collection and protection of Calgarians’ information in the petition, especially “outside of a recall opportunity.”

However, Gondek said she is open to speaking with Johnston about his concerns.

“I would speak to a member of the public that needed to get some information on how I voted on something or the decisions that I’m making,” Gondek told reporters.

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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