December 16th, 2017

Right of recall could be a powerful tool

By Medicine Hat News Opinon on September 29, 2017.

We are two weeks away from electing our municipal politicians who will serve for the next four years.

A commentator recently called it a democratic process to elect a dictatorship for four years. That may sound harsh but actually once they are elected we are stuck with them for good or bad until the next election.

Voters often choose candidates based on their responses to current contentious issues.

Perhaps it is worth being reminded that talk is cheap. Unfortunately our democracy has voters choosing people based on what they “say” and then we have to hope they will “do” what they said. We have no control once they are in power.

Perhaps you are a transit user and your questions to candidates are in that regard. A candidate may say he/she wants the old transit system restored and that is important to you. Once they are in office however they may feel differently. They can vote any way they like and you can’t do anything about it until the next election.

This no doubt hits home for many seniors who were upset about the way the seniors’ centre was handled after being flooded in 2013. There was a protest vote with many of the councillors at the time not re-elected.

It took the new council three years of discussions, surveys and consultations to finally start construction on a new centre. During that time seniors felt they were not listened to and not heard. Even the results of a survey of seniors was ignored. There was nothing they could do but wait for the next election.

It is only fair to point out there may be a valid reason why a candidate may switch how they felt on an issue once elected. They may have access to information they did not have before that shed new light on a subject. That may have persuaded them to think and act differently.

It does mean, though, that they are diverting from what they told the people during the election.

There are people on all sides of the debate about the “right of recall.” It basically means if enough voters feel a politician is not performing as expected, a petition, with enough support, could remove them from office. Those petitions typically require a high number of votes to be effective. Historically few of those petitions are successful but just having that option is probably a good thing on all sides.

It sends a message to the elected, it helps them remember to not lose sight of what they promised. They remember they are not in a safe political position for another four years. It will hopefully remind them, when faced with new information, they either vote as they promised or explain persuasively why they feel differently. This is an important part because often the public has no idea why a politician has changed their mind after being elected.

Right of recall could be a very effective tool for our democracy.

(Gillian Slade is a News reporter. To comment on this and other editorials, go to http://www.medicinehatnews.com/opinions or call her at 403-528-8635.)

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