Drug, alcohol, and sex allegations continue to rock Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, with mounting calls for him to resign, and Toronto City Council going so far as to hold a vote, overwhelmingly asking Mr. Ford to step down. Yet unlike cities in the United States, Ontario city councils and municipal voters do not have the power to ask politicians to resign - the Toronto City Council vote was purely symbolic. In fact, the only way Rob Ford or any other mayor can be removed from office is if he is charged and arrested, breaks conflict-of-interest rules or the provincial government steps in and removes him. This leads to a rather interesting question about our democracy: Should Canadians be able to recall their politicians between elections?
The National Post's Tasha Kheiridden questions why provincial governments don't pass legislation to allow voters to recall their politicians between elections. To be sure, the province of British Columbia has voter recall legislation, which was evoked to reverse the HST tax, and was almost used to remove MLA's from office. Yet no other jurisdiction in Canada has the power to recall their elected officials or reverse legislation. In contrast, many jurisdictions across the Unites States are able to recall their politicians, but it doesn't appear that many other democratic countries have recall legislation. Critics of recall legislation also argue that such reforms may make politicians even more hyper sensitive to voter opinion rather than sound public policy.
If legislated, recall laws would tilt Canada towards more of a direct democracy than a representative democracy. However, like changing our electoral system, it seems unlikely that our politicians would venture into giving voters more power. Nevertheless, the call for recall legislation across the country seems to be growing. Ontario Conservative MPP Randy Hillier has tabled a private-members bill which would enable Ontario voters to recall MPPs, and Alberta's Wildrose Party pledged to introduce recall legislation if they were elected in 2012.
What are your thoughts? Should Canadians be able to recall politicians? If so, where do we set the bar? If not, then what should be the alternative? Your comments are most welcome! Also, be sure to check out our website, and sign up to join Unlock Democracy.
The Governing MPPs of Ontario may not like it, but the voters of Ontario are gathering and will make sure it happens.