Edmonton

Recall bill goes back to Alberta legislature after committee review

Under the recall bill, an Alberta MLA would lose their seat if 40 per cent of eligible voters in their constituency signs a petition within a 60-day period.

Bill 204 is the latest attempt to pass recall legislation in Alberta

The Alberta Legislature in Edmonton, Alta., in July 2019. (Codie McLachlan/CBC)

A private members' bill allowing constituents to recall their MLAs will be debated in the Alberta legislature after it was approved at the committee stage.  

Bill 204, the Election Recall Act, was introduced last week by Mark Smith, UCP MLA for Drayton Valley-Devon. Smith introduced a recall bill when he was a Wildrose MLA in 2016 but it was defeated in second reading by NDP and Progressive Conservative MLAs. 

Under the bill, an MLA would lose their seat if 40 per cent of eligible voters in their constituency signs a petition within a 60-day period.

Recall petitions cannot be issued six months prior to and 18 months after a general election. 

"This is really all about trying to empower the electorate," Smith told reporters after Monday's committee meeting. "It's about allowing the electorate to be able to hold their MLA accountable." 

The standing committee on private bills and private members' public bills heard from several stakeholders this morning including Alberta chief electoral officer Glen Resler. 

Resler estimated the cost of each recall to be $10,000 for advertising and $5,000 to hire temporary staff to verify signatures on petitions. 

Paul Hinman, a former leader of the Wildrose party, suggested the committee consider moving the threshold to 50 per cent plus one of eligible voters.  

"I just feel that a high threshold is important so there isn't frivolous petitions going forward," he said. 

Hinman, who introduced recall legislation in 2008, also said the period for gathering signatures should be 90 days instead of the 60 proposed in Bill 204.

MLAs on the committee voted in favour of sending the bill back to the legislature where it can be introduced for second reading. 

British Columbia has had recall legislation in place since 1995. Of the 26 recall petitions launched during that period, none have been successful. The Elections B.C. website shows that only one petition received enough valid signatures; however, that petition ended when MLA Paul Reitsma resigned in 1999.