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Letter: Recall Rebuttal

The Confederation Building in St. John's, Newfoundland. — file
The Confederation Building in St. John's, Newfoundland. — file - The Telegram

I am writing this letter in response to the February 10th article by Russell Wangersky, “Why Recall Legislation Should Make You Recoil.”

In his piece, Wangersky makes several points against the idea of recall legislation, but if you look at jurisdictions where such legislation already exists, some of his arguments do not hold much water.  For example, he suggests that with only a 40 per cent threshold for a recall to be initiated, recalls in small rural districts would be easy to initiate.  When you look at British Columbia, however, who enacted recall legislation in 1995, only 26 recall applications have been approved and only 6 have resulted in petitions being returned for verification. Of those six petitions, five of them did not have enough verified signatures and the 1 remaining application was halted when the Member resigned. This suggests that recalling a sitting member would not be as easy as Wangersky implies. There is also nothing that says we have to keep the 40 per cent threshold.  That number could easily be higher if it were deemed in the best interest of the process.
The article also touched on issues with petitions and the idea that they could be filled with fictitious names.  With a proper verification process, such as the one used in BC, that would not be much of a concern when it comes to the legitimacy of the recall process. Initiating a successful recall campaign would be no easy task.  It would require many volunteers and a substantial amount of money to even get the initiative off the ground. I really don’t believe it is something that you would see people putting that kind of effort into, unless it was genuinely warranted.

Wangersky also suggests in the article that after the terrible budget of 2016, that many sitting Government Members would have been subjected to recalls. Looking again to B.C., they have a rule where a recall cannot be initiated in the first 18 months of a term. This prevents any knee-jerk reactions and gives a cooling off period for voters and Members alike. More importantly, it would prevent opposition parties from attempting to initiate recalls in electoral districts in which their candidate narrowly lost in the previous election.

I don’t propose that bringing in new recall legislation will fix all of the problems in our political system, but it will create an opportunity to add more checks and balances to a system that is in need of serious reform. Recall legislation at least offers people an option of last resort if they truly believe that their elected member is not working in their best interest. Despite Wangersky’s point of view, the evidence suggests that recalls and expensive by-elections will not be a regular occurrence, and that it just might give elected leaders pause when they are making decisions and encourage them to remember the people that elected them.

Paul Lane,

PC MHA, Mount Pearl-Southlands

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