Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Recall legislation.

Ever since I heard that BC had recall legislation -- something unheard of in my home province of Ontario -- I've been mulling over the concept. Basically, as I understand it, if a certain proportion of the citizenry within an MP's/MPP's/MLA's riding sign a petition by a certain time, then their MP/MPP/MLA is recalled and forced to run in a by-election. This could, if drafted improperly, be a recipe for malcontents to attack MPs/MPPs/MLAs they don't care for. Fair enough -- but that's a matter of implementation, not a matter of the principle. It's the principle I'm interested in.

In Canada's parliamentary system, if a party has a majority, then they are a de facto and de jure dictatorship. They can, literally, do anything -- except what the Constitution forbids. (And, since I'm not sure what the notwithstanding clause doesn't apply to, even that limit may be relatively flaccid.) How can the citizenry respond to a government that is no longer, they feel, governing in their interests? If the government is a minority, it's easy -- the opposition parties aren't stupid, and, smelling blood in the water, they will circle and attack. If necessary, they will force a vote of non-confidence and trigger a general election.

However, if the government is not a minority, then it becomes harder to see what the citizens can do. Civil disobedience is a possibility, to be sure, but a dicey one. And political protests can simply be ignored (Dubya has demonstrated that aptly, through both his terms). This is where recall legislation comes in.

Politicians, professional though they have become, need to remember that in a democratic country, the authority to govern is passed upwards from the citizenry. Each citizens has the right to govern him or herself, and each citizen, through the mechanism of an election, passes that right temporarily to a parlimentary representative. There is no "divine right" to rule (even of the federal Liberal party). Now, since the right to rule is passed up to the representatives, surely the citizens should have the right to take their right to rule back and, potentially, pass it to someone they feel is more deserving?

Given that, then the following practical problems must be dealt with (to ensure fair attempts at recall, and to block nuisances):

  • establish a time within a term past which an MP/MPP/MLA cannot be recalled
  • establish a "grace period" at the start of a term within which an MP/MPP/MLA cannot be recalled
  • establish a proportion of the citizenry considered fairly representative of dissatisfaction (say, a representative supermajority)
  • establish a mechanism by which the citizenry can express their dissatisfaction (e.g., signing a standard petition form)
  • put all this in the Constitution, so future governments can dick around with it at will.


Anonymous said...

Can you post links to recall related legislation that you have found on the web?

ADHR said...

Have you heard of this thing called Google?

Anyway, here's an article about California's recall law: link. And one about British Columbia's: link.