VICTORIA – I’ve never liked recall legislation, but it seems a lot of people do, particularly in the ridings of Skeena and Prince George, where some folks are trying mightily to end the political tenure, short and unpredictable as it is to begin with, of NDP MLAs Helmut Giesbrecht and Paul Ramsey respectively.
For all those friends of recall, I have an even better idea: why not do away with general elections altogether? We’ll have one last general election slugfest, and from then on, we’ll knock ‘em off as we see fit. Recall the rascals one by one if we don’t like what they’re doing, which is most of the time.
Think of it as democracy carried to new and dizzying heights. No longer could a party sneak into office because the other side split the vote. No politician would ever be able to feel safe again, not even for the three of four years it now takes between elections. Nor would they have time for the shenanigans the majority of the public feels they’re always up to.
Just fighting off the never-ending recall attempts would keep politicians busy round he clock. Political arrogance would be a thing of the past. And there would be other benefits:
The taxpayers would save a lot of money because we’d make the malcontents who get such a thrill out of recalling politicians pay for it. And we’d have elections year-round which would make political junkies like me delirious with joy. The scheme would beat cable TV six ways to breakfast for sheer entertainment value.
All right, maybe it’s not such a good idea, but then, neither is recall. Originally intended to give voters an opportunity to unseat, between elections, a politician for grave misconduct, the legislation is actually being used to fight the last election over again.
Not that those involved in trying to kick Giesbrecht and Ramsey out of office would admit to partisan reasons. Lorne Sexton, the chairman of the committee to topple Giesbrecht, admits he has always hated the NDP, but claims that the recall campaign is based on the MLA’s poor performance.
I suppose performance is in the eyes of the beholder, but I do know that Giebrecht was working his butt off on he Skeena Cellulose bailout. And his supporters will tell you that he’s one of the hardest-working MLAs they’ve ever had in Victoria, something that’s hard if not impossible to admit for sworn enemies of the NDP.
Also involved in the campaign to unseat Ramsey s the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, whose leader, Troy Lanigan, insists that recall is a tool of accountability.
Recalling an MLA in this province was facilitated under the Recall and Initiative Act, passed in 1995 by the NDP government under Mike Harcourt, who had promised during an election campaign to bring in the appropriate legislation.
The promise was based in naked political expediency. Both the Reform Party and the Liberals had built recall in their election platforms, and Harcourt felt he had no choice but to follow suit.
The legislation the Harcourt government produced was actually a joke, making it improbable to succeed in recalling an ML. Under the legislation, an MLA can be recalled after 18 months if 40 per cent of the eligible voters in a riding sign a petition to that effect. Improbable but maybe not quite impossible
In Ramsey’s case, the recall committee had 60 days to collect about 8,900 votes, 40 per cent of the eligible vote in the riding. Alfredo Lavaggi, who started the campaign to oust the education minister, says he’s got about 160 volunteers, which means each volunteer has to collect about 54 signatures by November 28. Again, improbably, but not impossible.
Given the volatile mood of voters these days, it’s quite conceivable that the committees collect enough signatures to recall the two MLAs, forcing two byelections. The outcome of those byelections could, in turn, bring down the government, which has only a slim three-seat majority.
Now, I wouldn’t want to spoil their fun if the committees actually succeeded in bringing down Giesbrecht and Ramsey and subsequently the government, but there’s a tiny fly in the ointment: whatever party gets in next time, will face the same music from its opponents.
Maybe my idea of scrapping general elections in favor of year-round recall isn’t hat far-fetched after all.