At the beginning of the last century, the heyday of Progressivism, a new tool was given to voters -- the recall election. The Rob Ford saga has many lessons. But one of them is that Ontario voters should be given the right to recall their politicians. Tasha Kheiriddin writes:
If Ford had any sense of decency, he would step down of his own accord. But failing that, he is correct when he says that it is the people who voted for him — not the media, or the city’s councillors — who should decide whether he stays or goes. So why not give those same voters the power to strip him of office, and then either re-elect him, or not?
Jurisdictions around the world, from California to Switzerland, have recall and referenda laws. British Columbia has one, which was used most recently to dispose of the province’s HST, after politicians broke a promise not to enact it.
Of course, politicians of all stripes are afraid of the beast they would unleash. But, at present, those same politicians feel they can do as they wish until the next election. There is no mechanism to make mid-term corrections. If voters had the ability to recall their politicians, mistakes could be dealt with before their consequences became unbearable. For instance, Kheiridden writes:
Had there been such a law on the books when the gas-plant cancellation controversy exploded in Ontario, Wynne’s minority might already have been driven from office.
And, on a municipal level, if a Mayor could be recalled, why not a councillor? You can see why many politicians are gun-shy when it comes to empowering voters in between elections.
Typically a recall election cannot be held unless there is a high threshold of voters who demand it. Others will argue that legislators can try to build a "firewall" around a leader -- as Toronto City Council is attempting to do this morning -- to try and minimize the damage he or she can do.
But, in the end, the people who can stop the bleeding are voters. Recall elections would make accountability real.