Alberta Premier Danielle Smith open to modifying recall legislation

By Alejandro Melgar

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says she would consider changes to the province’s recall legislation while on a call with the petition organizer of the Recall Gondek campaign Saturday.

Landon Johnston issued the recall of Mayor Jyoti Gondek in January, which calls on him to collect signatures from 40 per cent of Calgary’s voting population, which is over 510,000 residents, by April 4.

He pursued the recall over several frustrations like property tax increases, the single-use items bylaw, and the banning of fireworks on Canada Day.

Johnston, who called into “Your Province, Your Premier” as “Brandon” because he said would be cut off before his question was done, told Smith there are so many “gaps” and “loopholes” in the legislation, saying he has been left out to dry by the province.

“I’ve been left to fend for myself against so many different groups using this as an opportunity for their own gain,” he said.

He alleges the groups are with the UCP, NDP, and supporters of the Mayor, and all are using the recall for fundraising efforts, to damage the recall, or to collect their own signatures — all under his name.

“I’ve been trying to get a hold of Rick McIver and anybody within the UCP government for 55 days for any sort of direction and navigation of this legislation and not one single person has contacted me, and it has been very, very stressful because the city is in shambles,” Johnston said.

Smith responded, telling Johnston that she is committed to making “modifications” to the current legislation.

“It’s an extremely high bar to try to get the number of signatures because you have to get 40 per cent of the population which would be 500,000 signatures and so we know that we need to make some modifications, but what I’ve said is I can’t modify the legislation while there’s an active petition going on.”

She says she doesn’t want to interfere until the petition is over. However, once the petition is over, she wants to speak with those involved in the process to see what needs to change with the legislation.

“So, I’ll give you my commitment Landon. Happy to talk to you once that 60 days is up,” Smith said.

Problems with legislation: petition organizer

Several recall legislations are happening in the province, including in Wetaskiwin, Donalda, and Medicine Hat, but the most notable is the one started by Johnston in January.

Since then, he has been canvassing for signatures with volunteers in various locations in the city and has set up events and rallies to get people to show up and sign the petition.

Johnston has also had a chance to speak with Gondek on March 22, hoping to see her resign.

After the meeting, he explained the provincial government is to blame for problems with the legislation, calling it more of an illusion of change.

“This legislation was designed for elected officials to give us a little crumb and say, ‘Hey, we’re trying to help you out,’” Johnston said at a news conference following his talk with Gondek.

“This was never designed for them to ever lose power. Why would someone in power ever want to make it easier for them to not be in power?”

Former Premier Jason Kenney updated the MGA in 2022 to allow eligible voters to file petitions to recall politicians, including mayors and municipal councillors.

He said at the time this would allow Albertans to hold elected representatives accountable. Changes to the MGA also included taking away a local government’s ability to impose its own public health restrictions.

According to a social media post published Saturday, Johnston says over 51,000 signatures have been counted.

With files from Lauryn Heintz

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