The government just plunged Alberta into its second lockdown. Families spent the holidays apart. Businesses shut down and some may never again open their doors. Many workers are taking pay cuts to help keep businesses afloat and many are losing their jobs.
Although UCP politicians are urging Albertans to “stay home save lives,” we now find out that political staffers, MLAs and at least one minister have been travelling abroad.
Albertans have every right to be angry, but the key question is how we should deal with these hypocritical politicians.
“I don’t think it’s reasonable for me as a leader to sanction people who very carefully followed the public health orders and the legal requirements,” said Premier Jason Kenney when originally speaking about the politicians who travelled internationally while families and businesses were locked down.
Kenney may not think he can sanction these politicians, but voters are certainly up to the job. And while the vacationing MLAs ultimately lost their cabinet or committee positions, it should be up to Albertans whether they remain MLAs.
As it currently stands, however, voters will have to wait until the election in 2023 to weigh in. That means politicians can get away with locking down families and businesses while they skip town for a tropical beach to work on their tans. In the aftermath, backroom political brokering decides whether there will be consequences or not.
Albertans deserve the right to hold politicians accountable and that’s why we need recall legislation now. Through recall legislation, voters can launch a petition and, if it gets the required number of signatures, citizens then go to the ballot box to decide whether to recall a politician in a byelection.
Kenney promised to give Albertans recall rules when he was campaigning.
“Albertans want their MLAs to be accountable to them,” said Kenney on Feb. 14, 2019. “That’s why a United Conservative government would introduce a Recall Act allowing voters to fire their MLA in between elections if they have lost the public’s trust.
“Empowering citizens to hold their MLAs to account will strengthen Alberta democracy.”
In 2020, the Alberta government once again promised recall rules.
In its throne speech from last February, the government promised to table “a recall act, allowing constituents to remove their MLAs, municipal councillors, mayors, and school board trustees from office between elections.”
But Kenney still hasn’t delivered on his promise of recall legislation.
Make no mistake about it, the politicians’ sun-soaked vacations during a lockdown are a prime example of why Albertans need recall legislation.
Duane Bratt, a political science professor at Mount Royal University said it best.
“What does this say to severely normal Albertans who made the sacrifice to adhere to the health protocols and/or have taken such a financial hit from COVID that they could never afford a sun-drenched family vacation?”
Albertans should always have the right to fire politicians when they misbehave whether they raise taxes in the middle of a pandemic, waste taxpayers’ money or fail to follow government advice given to others.
Kenney is almost half-way through his mandate. He needs to keep his promise and implement recall legislation now.
Franco Terrazzano is the Alberta Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.