Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says recall legislation being used in an attempt to unseat Calgary Mayor Jyodi Gondek is “a little unfair” because the bar is so high. 

The City of Calgary says 514,284 signatures are needed to recall Gondek, even while just 390,383 total votes were cast for all of the mayoral candidates combined in the 2021 election. 

Because of how the legislation is worded, those working on the recall campaign are seeking signatures from 40% of Calgary’s population — including children — rather than 40% of the electorate, Smith said. 

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is asked to comment on the recall petition to oust Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek and criticism of the recall legislation, which some argue sets the bar too high while others argue it undermines democracy. pic.twitter.com/0BHHsUM9Yc

— True North (@TrueNorthCentre) March 7, 2024

“If three times the number of people who voted for a person say that they want to reconsider it, then that seems to me to be a pretty strong expression of democracy, but it does give you an indication of just how high the bar actually is,” she said at an unrelated press conference on Thursday.

“And when I say we may have set it too high, is that it seems a little unfair that you’d have to have a petition campaign that would include everyone under the age of 18 (and) people who are not eligible to vote because they’re not citizens.”

Smith said the recall legislation is currently under review, but there won’t be any changes while a recall campaign is ongoing. 

Petitioner Landon Johnston agrees the criterion is ridiculous. In an interview with True North last week, he said it’s “statistically impossible” to get enough signatures. 

“It was never meant to be 40% of the population,” he said. “I just want to prove that this would be impossible… hopefully they’ll change it.” 

Kristy Koehler, executive director of the citizen’s advocacy group Common Sense Calgary, told True North that the requirement to collect signatures from a minimum of 40% of the population is “insurmountable.”

“Add in requirements for paper signatures, witnesses, and the short time limit of 60 days, and the odds are stacked against the petitioner,” she said. 

Gondek has said she won’t resign before the next election in October 2025, although in an interview with CTV, she did say the campaign to recall her “stings a little bit.”

A December 2023 ThinkHQ survey conducted among 1,116 Calgarians revealed a 30%approval rating for Gondek’s performance. That rating was down six points from June and came after Gondek announced a 7.8% residential tax hike.

ThinkHQ president Marc Henry said the numbers facing Gondek and council are the lowest he’s seen in Calgary.

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