Citizens need power to recall politicians, expert says

New Brunswickers should have the right to recall politicians who break their promises or make unpopular decisions, according to a political scientist.

British Columbia is the only province with a recall law

New Brunswickers should have the right to recall politicians who break their promises or make unpopular decisions, according to a political scientist.

Mario Levesque, a political science professor at Mount Allison University, said politicians should be forced to resign and run in a byelection if they lose the confidence of a large enough bloc of voters.

Former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell called a referendum on his HST policy after five MLAs were threatened with recall initiatives. (CBC)

Levesque said there is no substitute for integrity and good character. He said citizens should have the power to recall politicians when their elected representatives falter or use their position for personal gain.

"If we do not like a particular decision by an MLA, for example, if we have a certain number of registered voters that sign a petition, then we can call them back and have them run in another election," he said.

Levesque said the idea isn't perfect, but the public needs to take some power back from watchdogs, such as the ombudsman.

He said under his plan, if a petition had enough signatures — between 25 and 40 per cent of voters in a riding — a byelection would have to be called within 90 days.

He points to the recent conflict-of-interest ruling against former premier Shawn Graham that took years. The former premier was found to be in a conflict of interest over his handling of the contentious Atcon file.

Graham retired from politics and resigned his Kent seat earlier this month and there is now a byelection to choose his replacement slated for April 15.

"What we're trying to do is to have people have a direct say in the policy process so that number one, they are the ones that are being represented in office," he said.

Levesque admits the odds of his legislation being adopted by politicians aren't good.

The idea of recall legislation in Canada isn’t new.

British Columbia is the only province in Canada with such legislation. The western province allows voters to launch campaigns to recall politicians from office 18 months after the provincial election.

The law was introduced in 1995 and 24 recall petitions have been launched. But, 23 of the 24 petitions did not gain enough signatures and the other MLA resigned during the verification process.

The threat of recall campaigns has forced B.C. governments to reverse course on unpopular decisions.

Former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell announced his government would hold a referendum on the future of the HST after opponents promised to launch recall campaigns against Liberal MLAs.

B.C. voters ended up rejecting the HST in a province-wide referendum.

Alberta's Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith promised to introduce a recall law in the 2012 election, but her party was defeated.

Alberta has its own history with recall legislation. Alberta’s Social Credit government brought in recall legislation in 1936. But the legislation was repealed when premier William Aberhart was threatened to be recalled.