Alberta voters could fire politicians between elections under new proposed legislation
EDMONTON -- Albertans could soon have a new tool to rid their constituencies of politicians perceived to be neglectful of their duties.
The Government of Alberta tabled new legislation Monday that, if passed, would give constituents the ability to remove and replace their elected officials in between general elections.
The passage of Bill 52 into Alberta law would mean MLAs, elected municipal representatives and school board officials could be removed from office if enough eligible voters agree that they are not living up to their responsibilities.
"In the last election we committed to the most dramatic democratic reforms in Alberta history," Premier Jason Kenney said during a Monday afternoon news conference.
The commitment was raised by many during the UCP travel scandal over the holiday, when at least six MLAs and several staff members took tropical vacations, despite a provincial advisory against travel.
- READ MORE: UCP government dealing with internal frustration, public skepticism over handling of travel scandal
"At the end of the day ordinary Alberta voters are the boss in our democracy," he said, "and if they lose faith in their elected representatives they can hold them to account in between elections."
SLAVE LAKE MLA REMOVED FROM UCP CAUCUS
An open letter written by Slave Lake town council in January asked that local MLA Pat Rehn resign, saying he habitually missed meetings and showed a lack of effort toward the job.
Roughly one week later, Rehn was removed from the UCP caucus by Kenney.
He currently sits in the Alberta Legislature as an independent MLA.
If passed, Bill 52 would provide new levers for unsatisfied constituents to remove Rehn from office.
PROCESS OF REMOVING ELECTED OFFICIALS
If passed, Bill 52 would mean an eligible Alberta voter would be able to apply to the Chief Electoral Officer for a petition to recall an elected official 18 months after an election and up until six months before the next general election.
The applicant would have 60 days to collect signatures from the 40 per cent of eligible voters in their constituency, needed to trigger a recall.
If the petition is successful a recall vote would determine whether a by-election will be held.
"Should the recall bill pass through the legislature you will have an additional tool of democracy for your consideration," Drayton Valley-Devon MLA Mark Smith said. The UCP backbencher previously introduced similar legislation as a private members bill.
The Elections Recall Act was defeated in the legislature in January of 2020.
"Use it wisely to strengthen our democracy," he said. "Use it to develop consensus. Use it to articulate a vision for the future, and use it to increase accountability."
The process of removing municipal and school board officials would look a little different than the one to remove an MLA.
Under the new legislation removing and replacing municipal government officials would need 40 per cent of the population of the municipality or ward, not just eligible voters, to sign a recall petition.
The petitioner would have 60 days to gather the required signatures.
If that happens the Chief Administrative Officer would declare the petition successful and the official would be removed.
SCHOOL BOARD OFFICIALS
The removal of school board officials would require a petition signed by 40 per cent of eligible voters in their school district.
In this case, the petitioner would have 120 days to collect signatures.
If the petition is successful, the official would be removed.
The fee to start a municipal or school board recall petition would be $500. The fee for an MLA recall petition has not been finalized.
If the bill passes, Alberta would become the second province in Canada to have recall powers, with British Columbia being the first.
Kenney says he hopes Bill 52 will be implemented before the end of this year, well before the 2023 spring election.
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Bill Fortier