Re­call re­but­tal

Advertiser (Grand Falls) - - Editorial -

I am writ­ing this let­ter in re­sponse to the Feb. 15 ar­ti­cle by Mr. Rus­sel Wanger­sky, “Why re­call leg­is­la­tion should make you re­coil.”

In his piece, Mr. 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, which en­acted re­call leg­is­la­tion in 1995, only 26 re­call ap­pli­ca­tions have been ap­proved and only six have re­sulted in pe­ti­tions be­ing re­turned for ver­i­fi­ca­tion. Of those six pe­ti­tions, five of them did not have enough ver­i­fied sig­na­tures and the one re­main­ing ap­pli­ca­tion was halted when the mem­ber re­signed. This sug­gests that re­call­ing a sit­ting mem­ber would not be as easy as Mr. 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 B.C., 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.

Mr. 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 Mr. 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

MHA, Mount Pearl-South­lands

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