Total recall: PCs want voters to be able to fire MHAs between elections

Amid deep public protest over the provincial budget, Tory MHA Steve Kent says it's time for voters to be able to fire MHAs, writes Peter Cowan.

Private member's resolution would start process for recall legislation

Steve Kent says voters should have the ability to recall an elected member of the House of Assembly. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

Amid deep public protest over the provincial budget, Tory MHA Steve Kent says it's time for voters to be able to fire MHAs.

On Wednesday, Kent will introduce a private nember's motion in the House of Assembly.

"It's about allowing voters to have more of a say in their democratic institutions as opposed to simply having a say every four years or so," said Kent, who represents Mount Pearl North. 

British Columbia has legislation allowing elected members to be recalled with signatures from 40 per cent of the voters. There have been two dozen attempts to force out MLAs in that province but none have been successful.

"We're not being prescriptive about how this would work," said Kent, saying he doesn't have a figure for how many signatures he'd want to see to recall an MHA in this province.

He says that's something that an all party committee should figure out.

The governing Liberals will not be supporting Kent's resolution, meaning it won't pass.

"They are proposing recall legislation now because we are implementing a tough, but necessary budget," said Nathan Downey, a communications official with the Liberal caucus.

"Their motivations have nothing to do with democracy."

Not part of the Tory platform

Recall legislation wasn't part of the PC party platform in last fall's election. Kent says it's something that's come up out of the Liberal government's unpopular spring budget, which has raised taxes and cut programs. 

There have been numerous protests over the budget already, with more planned.

"One of the most common questions I'm hearing from people in the province is 'what can I do? I don't believe my MHA is listening I don't believe my government is listening so what can I do about that?'" Kent said. 

"Unfortunately, there are limited options at this time," he said. "Having recall legislation is something that I've heard from members of the public would be appropriate at this time."

Private member's motions don't have the backing of the government and rarely pass intact.

Some Liberal MHAs have expressed concerns over the budget but are expected to vote for it, something Kent calls undemocratic.

"If MHAs are going to behave like that that's one small examples where a recall provision might be of interest to a lot of voters," said Kent.

Kent insisted that he is not just trying to capitalize on the anger of the budget. He said it would also be useful when MHAs cross the floor, allowing the member to be recalled if enough constituents do not agree with switching parties.

About the Author

Peter Cowan

CBC News

Peter Cowan is a St. John's-based reporter with CBC News.