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Recall legislation: impacts vary by population

March 23, 2021

Bill 52, Recall Act, was introduced in the Legislature on March 15, 2021. This Bill would allow Albertans to initiate a process that could lead to removing and replacing elected officials during their term, including members of the legislative assembly (MLAs), municipal elected officials, and school trustees. Key elements of the recall process for municipal elected officials include:

  • An elected official cannot be recalled in the first 18 months of their term or after January 1 of the election year.
  • A recalled councillor is eligible to run in the by-election held to fill the vacancy left by their recall.
  • A notice of recall must be accompanied by a $500 application fee to initiate a recall process. Fellow councillors cannot initiate a recall process.
  • A recall petition must be signed, in the case of a municipality other than a summer village, by electors of the municipality (or ward) equal in number to at least 40% of the population, and in the case of a summer village, by electors of the summer village equal in number to at least 50% of the number of summer village residences in the summer village.
  • The Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) plays the lead role in the administration of the recall process. The CAO determines if the recall petition is sufficient and if individual petitioners are eligible and signatures meet requirements.
  • Recall petitions cannot be signed in digital form, so an online-only process is not possible. Hardcopies of the petitioners’ signatures must be submitted to the CAO.

AUMA has submitted feedback to the Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, who sponsored the Bill, highlighting the following:

  • Small population municipalities would be impacted differently by the recall process. The ability to obtain petition signatures from 40% of a population less than 1000 would not be nearly as onerous, and the process could result in political destabilization in these communities where few people may be available to, and/or interested in, filling councillor positions.  
  • Given that CAOs are employees of council and report directly to them, granting them the authority to administer the recall process, which includes validating petitions, puts them in a position of conflict with their employers. Based on the current draft of Bill 52, as long as they meet the general eligibility requirements for petitioners, a CAO can initiate a recall petition targeting one of their own councillors (and employers). The CAO would then have the authority to validate their own petition.
  • There will be significant administrative burden and costs associated with processing and validating a recall petition which could have a detrimental effect on the operation and financial position of some municipalities, especially smaller communities where staff are limited.

The AUMA Board proposed solutions in the letter to the Minister, such as:

  • Municipal Affairs or a neutral third-party validate recall petitions;
  • number of voters, not the number of residences, be used to determine the threshold for a successful petition in a summer village; and
  • for a small community with a population of less than 1,000 or 500, the recall limit should be set at 60% of the population.

If you any questions or comments about the proposed recall legislation, please contact AUMA’s Policy and Advocacy team at advocacy@auma.ca.