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‘It stings a little bit’: Calgary’s mayor reflects on complexity of job amid recall legislation

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek is speaking out for the first time since a recall petition was launched to end her more than two-year term in office.

“It came as a surprise and you know, I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t say it stings a little bit when you see something like this,” she told media outside council chambers on Tuesday.

Calgary resident Landon Johnston is behind the campaign that, if successful, would remove Gondek as mayor.

Johnston is upset about the city’s spending and tax increases while many struggle with affordability.

He says the city’s single-use plastics bylaw was the last straw.

“I’m putting notice to all the councillors that their job is not safe. We see what they vote for, we see what they are bringing to the public and we see how much money they’re wasting,” he told CTV News on Monday.

“This, I believe, is going to expose a lot of what goes on in the city council and I think it’s time for a change, you know? I don’t want to wait two years to have another election.”

Gondek says Johnston has never come to her or her office directly, but she’s open to having a discussion with him and other Calgarians.

“Whether it’s positive or negative, it is always a moment of reflection. … The job is complex. The decisions we make are incredibly complex. We are happy to engage with the public at every turn and we will continue to stay focused on that,” Gondek said.

“I believe that Calgarians are frustrated with a lot of things at this time. I think people are in an affordability crisis. I think that people are in a housing crisis. There’s a lot of people that are struggling with public safety in our public spaces.”

Ward 13’s councillor, Dan McLean, who has clashed with the mayor before, says he had nothing to do with the petition and has no plans of signing it.

But he isn’t surprised it’s gotten to this point.

“A lot of residents are upset at this entire council. Our popularity is at all-time lows,” McLean said.

Johnston has 60 days to collect 514,284 Calgarians’ signatures in person.

Ward 10’s councillor, Andre Chabot, says it’s an impossible task.

“The recall legislation is so demanding, there’s absolutely no way that it will ever be achievable,” he said.

“For the next 60 days, there’s going to be a little more theatre. At the end of the day, it’s not going to change anything.”

Lori Williams, a policy studies professor at Mount Royal University, says there’s a reason why that bar is set so high.

“We don’t want it just to be a small group of disenchanted voters removing people, sort of having a redo of an election because they don’t like the results,” she said.

Even if the petition fails, Williams says it could still be damaging to the mayor.

“If it moves into the hundreds of thousands — if that kind of motivation and dissatisfaction is being expressed — it makes it very difficult to counter that,” she said.

“This could incentivize others to try this process to get better at organizing so that they can succeed in future cases.”

Gondek isn’t the only mayor in Alberta to recently have a recall petition launched against them.

Medicine Hat Mayor Linnsie Clark faced a recall petition late last year due to concerns over her effectiveness in that role.

The person who started the petition said Clark failed to respond to numerous concerns about high utility prices and the dysfunction of council.

The petition ended up failing as it only got about 7,900 of the roughly 25,000 signatures required.

This is the first time the recall legislation has been used in Calgary since it was introduced in 2022.

Gondek says she’s worried about how people’s personal information being collected throughout this process will be used.

“I’m not really sure how confidentially that will be kept or what will happen with that information,” she said.

“One thing that we’ve learned is that the legislation allows for data collection for whatever purposes it may be needed for or used for outside of a recall opportunity.”

People have until April 4 to sign the recall petition in person.

For more information, contact Johnston at goodbadgermedia@gmail.com

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