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Calgarian launches recall petition to remove Jyoti Gondek from mayor's office

Jyoti Gondek was sworn in as Calgary's mayor in October 2021. Now, a Calgarian man has submitted a recall petition to remove her from office. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Jyoti Gondek was sworn in as Calgary's mayor in October 2021. Now, a Calgarian man has submitted a recall petition to remove her from office. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press - image credit)

A notice of recall petition has been filed against Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek.

The city issued a release Monday explaining the notice has been officially reviewed and deemed compliant with the province's Municipal Government Act.

The act was updated by the provincial government in 2022 to allow eligible voters to file petitions to recall politicians, including mayors and municipal councillors.

It's the first notice of a recall petition that has been received in Calgary since the legislation took effect.

Landon Johnston — a local business owner and Calgary resident for about 10 years — filed the petition on Jan. 30 as a bid to hold the first-term mayor "accountable."

Johnston, who spent $500 to submit the petition, says it's because he's not satisfied with Calgary's leadership.

In order for the recall to go ahead, the petition must garner support from a minimum of 40 per cent of Calgary's 2019 population within 60 days from today's date.

That means 514,284 hand-penned, non-digital signatures would be needed for it to have a chance of being successful.

If those signatures are gathered and the petition is submitted within the outlined timeframe, there is a 45-day period wherein the "sufficiency of the petition will be assessed."

If deemed sufficient, the city says, Gondek would be recalled and no longer a city council member or member of any city committee, and the position of mayor would be vacant.

If the petition is deemed insufficient, a declaration of insufficiency would be published on the city's website and no more recall petitions directed toward Gondek can be accepted for the rest of her current term.

Gondek responded to news of the petition in a statement Monday.

"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," reads the email to CBC News.

"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."

More signatures than 2021 Calgary voters

An online opinion survey of more than 1,100 people in December suggested Gondek's approval rating had fallen to 30 per cent, down from 36 per cent in June 2023.

However, Duane Bratt, a political scientist and Mount Royal University professor, calls the pursuit of over half a million signatures "virtually impossible."

"You're asking for over 500,000 signatures when there were less than 400,000 people who voted in the last municipal election," said Bratt.

"But this isn't about forcing a recall election or forcing Gondek's removal. This is symbolic. That does not mean useless."

Duane Bratt, political scientist at Mount Royal University, says unity is still an issue within the United Conservative Party following its annual general meeting.
Duane Bratt, political scientist at Mount Royal University, says unity is still an issue within the United Conservative Party following its annual general meeting.

Duane Bratt, political scientist at Mount Royal University, says the recall petition is 'notable' and could have an impact on public perception toward Mayor Jyoti Gondek. (Mike Symington/CBC)

Bratt says if the petition does get a significant amount of signatures before its April 4 deadline — even if it still falls short of enough to be considered sufficient — the outcome could be politically damaging for the mayor.

"This is not just some protests at a town hall. This isn't a series of columns criticizing you. This isn't backtracking on the paper bag policies or the backlash to the property taxes. This is coming from a private individual."

The political scientist says the number of signatures obtained in the end will be an indicator of how serious this matter is to Calgarians.

Over the next two months, Johnston says he'll be doing whatever he can to get the required number of signatures, including launching a website and trying to find volunteer canvassers.

"I'm going to do absolutely everything I can according to the legislation to get the mayor recalled. But I am well aware of the actual, you know, likelihood of that happening," he told CBC News in an interview.

For example, Johnston would need to acquire nearly 8,600 signatures every day in order to get the minimum required for the recall petition to even be considered.

"She's going to hear about it and she's going to maybe think twice about the way she runs things."

A copy of the original recall notice can be found on the Elections Calgary website.