Alberta's recall bill sets different rules for municipal, school board officials and MLAs

·3 min read
Justice Minister Kaycee Madu on Monday introduced legislation that would allow Albertans to recall MLAs, municipal politicians and school trustees. (CBC - image credit)
Justice Minister Kaycee Madu on Monday introduced legislation that would allow Albertans to recall MLAs, municipal politicians and school trustees. (CBC - image credit)

New proposed legislation would allow Albertans to recall municipal politicians and school trustees, in addition to MLAs, making it a Canadian first.

But Bill 52, the Recall Act, proposes fewer steps for voters to fire school trustees, councillors, mayors and reeves than their provincial representatives, by not including a provision for a recall vote.

Under the bill, which was introduced Monday, a voter who wants to recall their MLA has 60 days to collect signatures from 40 per cent of eligible voters in that constituency.

If the petition is successful, then a recall vote must be held to determine if the MLA loses his or her seat. Recalling an MLA would trigger a byelection.

The process for municipal officials and school trustees doesn't include a recall vote.

For councillors, mayors and reeves, the chief administrative officer of a municipality would be able to declare them removed at the next council meeting upon receipt of a successful petition.

For school trustees, the petition would go to the secretary of the school board.

Broadly, councillor recall petitions would require signatures of 40 per cent of eligible voters that represent 40 per cent of the population of a ward or of a municipality.

WATCH | Alberta introduces elected-official recall legislation:

School trustee recall petitions would require signatures from 40 per cent of the eligible voters in a school division or ward. Petitioners would get 120 days to collect signatures to give the school district time for a census to determine how many voters they have.

Justice Minister Kaycee Madu said the difference is due to the legislation that governs school districts and municipalities. He said the provincial government also has more capacity to hold a recall vote.

"We have more work, more capacity, the recognition that at that particular level, the chief electoral officer has got more resources at his disposal to be able to administer those elections," Madu said Monday.

An MLA could only be recalled once in a term, after the 18-month period following an election, or up to six months before the next election.

For local officials, the recall period starts 18 months after the election and ends on Jan. 1 of an election year. Local elections are held in October, every four years.

British Columbia has had recall legislation for MLAs since 1995. Since then, there have been 26 recall petitions. Only six were submitted to Elections B.C.

Five weren't approved. The sixth petition was in the process of being verified when the member in question resigned.

Edmonton-Manning MLA Heather Sweet, the NDP critic for democratic reform, said the bill does nothing to help Alberta's post-pandemic recovery. She said it appears to be unworkable.

"This bill imposes a series of hurdles so high that it becomes virtually impossible to use in the real world," Sweet said.

If passed, Bill 52 is expected to come into effect later this year. The next Alberta election will be held in the spring of 2023.

Regulations have to be written before the bill comes into effect. Sweet said she hopes Kenney wouldn't delay implementation while his poll numbers continued to drag.