Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Petition seeks to recall Jyoti Gondek as Calgary’s mayor

To present the petition, Landon Johnston must obtain over half a million signatures in 60 days

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A Calgary resident is hoping to get Mayor Jyoti Gondek removed from office, issuing a notice of recall petition to the city.

However, before he can officially present the petition, Landon Johnston must first obtain over half a million signatures.

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In an email to news outlets, Johnston said he filed the notice of recall petition in accordance with Section 240.2 of the Municipal Government Act (MGA). He will have 60 days to obtain 514,285 physical signatures or 40 per cent of Calgary’s population.

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That amount of signatures, Johnston notes, would surpass the 390,383 votes cast in the 2021 mayoral race.

While the campaign targets the mayor, Johnston said the notice of petition is aimed at all members of council and an attempt to “hold these elected officials’ feet to the fire.”

“The council and mayor’s favourability rating has dropped to a new low and I believe she has lost the trust and will of the people,” Johnston said in an email. “The recall gives the people a voice that could either be a hurricane or a burp in the wind.

“Whether this petition is successful or not, it is my personal goal to make every last councillor uncomfortable to hold office whilst being so unfavourable in the eyes of the people they serve,” he said.

‘Calgarians put their faith in me,’ says mayor

In a statement issued in response to the notice of recall petition, Gondek said she remains committed to serving as Calgary’s mayor.

“In October 2021, Calgarians put their faith in me to be a mayor who could bring balance and stability to this city at a time when polarized ideologies stood to divide us,” the statement read.

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“I remain steadfastly committed to the work of building a future that holds opportunity and prosperity for everyone who lives here. We have work to do. Onward.”

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek
Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek speaks with media outside council chambers on Tuesday, July 26, 2022. Gavin Young/Postmedia

After serving as the Ward 3 councillor since 2017, Gondek won the mayoralty in the 2021 election, receiving 45 per cent of the vote in a field of 27 candidates. Her closest opponents were fellow city council members Jeromy Farkas and Jeff Davison, who received 30 and 13 per cent of the vote, respectively.

But halfway through a four-year mandate, Gondek’s approval has dropped in recent months.

In December, the mayor scored a 30 per cent approval rating in a ThinkHQ survey of city voters. The same survey found 61 per cent disapproved of the mayor’s performance, while 43 per cent said they strongly disapproved. Seven per cent of respondents said they strongly approved of her.

The drop in popularity comes after Gondek received backlash for opting out of a Menorah lighting at city hall to mark the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah in December. She said she felt the annual event had been politicized in the wake of Israel’s invasion of Gaza.The mayor also took heat in November after city council voted 9-6 to approve a 2024 budget adjustment that resulted in a 7.8 per cent residential property tax increase.

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Notice complies with MGA: City

In a news release, the city confirmed receipt of the notice of recall petition on Monday, and said upon review, the notice complies with provincial legislation.

The city said the Alberta government amended the Municipal Government Act (MGA) to include provisions related to recalling an elected official in 2021.

City clerk Kate Martin said this is the first notice of recall petition her office has received since the new legislation took effect.

“For the petition to be successful, the representative recall petitioner must collect signatures from at least 40 per cent of the population within the city of Calgary,” Martin said.

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All signatures must be original signatures and a recall petition may not be signed in digital form, she added.

The recall petition will be measured against Calgary’s population of 1,285,711, (using data from the 2019 Municipal Affairs Population List), meaning 514,284 signatures are required to meet the threshold set out in the MGA.

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If a petition is submitted, Martin said there is a 45-day period during which the sufficiency of the petition will be assessed.  The city clerk must, at the first council meeting after determining whether the recall petition is sufficient or insufficient, make a declaration to the council as to whether the recall petition is sufficient or insufficient. 

If the petition is declared sufficient, the individual named in the notice of recall petition is recalled,
they are no longer a member of council or of any council committee, and their position becomes vacant.

If the petition is deemed insufficient, the city clerk would publish the declaration of insufficiency on the city’s website. Changes to the petition would not be permitted after submission.

Once a notice of petition has been filed, no further recall petitions in relation to the same council member would be accepted.  

Whether the petition campaign is successful or not, Johnston said he aims to make Gondek and the rest of city council “uncomfortable to hold office whilst being so unfavourable in the eyes of the people they serve.”

“This is just the beginning as accountability comes in many shapes,” he said. “The mayor’s job is probably safe but the councillors’ seats will be much easier to recall.”

More to come

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