#4 – Recall Legislation for Delinquent MLAs

Anti-corruption-Policy4

The Problem

No matter how incompetent or corrupt a particular MLA may prove to be, there is currently no mechanism available within government to have that individual removed from office: this needs to change.

Knowing that there is no possibility for removal before the completion of a legislative term in office – e.g., the “next general election” – represents a significant disincentive for MLAs to hold themselves to the highest possible ethical standard….especially when they realize they are likely able to just wait out a term, put up with some grumbling and criticism, and then receive a significant pension for the rest of their lives!  If MLAs betray the trust of their constituents who voted them into office, they should not be able to profit from that betrayal.

Implementing  Representative Recall provides a way to motivate elected MLAs – including the Premier – to act with a greater degree of public accountability and ethical vigilance in fulfilling the duties of public office, and suffer consequences if they fail to do so.

There is currently only one province in Canada with Recall Legislation, British Columbia. In 1995, the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia enacted Representative Recall,   where B.C. voters in a provincial riding can petition to have their elected representative removed from office.

No one has been recalled so far in B.C., but one representative, Paul Reitsma, resigned in 1998 when it looked as if the petition to recall him would have enough signatures to spur a recall election.

The Solution

As Premier, I would implement recall legislation immediately.

The Recall Bill I would put forward would amend the PEI Election Act to establish processes by which members of the PEI Legislative Assembly may be recalled.  Under the Bill, a qualified voter in a member’s electoral district could apply to the PEI Ethics and Integrity Commissioner  (“Commissioner”) to approve the issuing of a recall petition with respect to the member on grounds of conduct unbecoming a member.

The Standing Committee on Legislative Management would put forward a document outlining possible grounds for recall – that would then be debated and adopted by the entire Legislative Assembly – that would provide guidance for the Commissioner on what would constitute “grounds” for permitting a recall petition.

If the Commissioner determines that the member has, on a balance of probabilities, engaged in conduct unbecoming a member, the Commissioner will approve the issuing of a recall petition and the Chief Election Officer will issue one in the member’s electoral district. Persons who are qualified voters in the district may register as canvassers to collect signatures for the petition.

A signed recall petition must be returned to the Chief Election Officer within 6 months of issuance. If the petition is signed by a number of qualified voters in the electoral district that equals or exceeds 25 per cent of the total votes cast in the last preceding election in that district, the petition will be deemed to have been successful and will result in a recall referendum. The Chief Election Officer organizes the recall referendum. If more than 50 per cent of the votes cast in the referendum are in favour of the recall, the member ceases to hold office and a by-election will be called for that electoral district.

In addition to being subject to the usual recall processes, a member who is the Premier and President of the Executive Council is subject to a province-wide recall process that is similar to the electoral district recall but would allow all qualified voters in the province to participate.

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