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Taxpayers federation calls for municipal recall legislation

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is calling for B.C.'s recall legislation to be expanded to include municipal leaders. British Columbia introduced the country's first, and only, recall legislation for MLAs in 1991.
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The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is calling for B.C.'s recall legislation to be expanded to include municipal leaders.

British Columbia introduced the country's first, and only, recall legislation for MLAs in 1991. Under the legislation, constituents can trigger a by-election if more than 40 per cent of voters sign a formal petition to recall their MLA.

“We can take pride that British Columbia is the only place in Canada that can fire provincial politicians between elections and now we need to extend that to our city halls,” said Kris Sims, B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. “As more money and power flows through our city halls, we need more accountability from Vancouver to Vanderhoof.”

On Wednesday, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation called on the B.C. government to table legislation in the next session to allow municipal voters to recall their mayors and city councillors.

“As we recover from the economic crisis caused by COVID-19, taxpayers need to know that every nickel is being spent wisely at city halls and that our elected politicians are acting responsibly,” said Sims. “If city politicians are giving themselves raises or blowing money on designer office furniture, local voters should be able to call them to the carpet.”

On Thursday, B.C. Liberal Party interim leader and local MLA Shirley Bond said her party would take a look at the proposal from the taxpayer's federation.

"If you're going to put a recall policy in place, than it has to be workable and be possible," Bond said. "(But) I think we all know, there is the ultimate recall for elected officials. If people are unhappy with their elected officials, they can vote them out in the next election."

One provincial agency that looks at municipal accountability and transparency, the B.C. Auditor General for Local Government, began winding down its operations last year.

The Liberals created the office in 2013, to provide oversight into municipal finances and spending. In February, 2020, NDP Municipal Affairs Minister Selina Robinson announced a 31 per cent cut to the budget for the local government auditor as part of plans for the office to complete its current projects and close in late 2021.

"We know we have to be as open and as transparent with taxpayer dollars. The fundamental issue is transparency for taxpayers," Bond said. "It was then, when the we created that office, and it is now."

The closure of the local government auditor general's office was supported by the Union of B.C. Municipalities.

— With files from the Vancouver Sun