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Toronto mayoral candidate argues for recall system

In Governance
Aug 31st, 2010

Politicians shouldn’t get a four-year “blank cheque,’ says Rossi
By David Rider Toronto Star
Torontonians need to be able to fire their mayor or councillor part way through a four-year-term, says mayoral candidate Rocco Rossi.

Rossi announced Monday that, if elected Oct. 25, he will ask the Ontario government to pass legislation enabling recall votes for Toronto.
Under the recall system, any voter can start a petition that, with a decreed number of signatures, will end a politician’s term and trigger an election.
In B.C., the only province in Canada with recall, a by-election is triggered once 40 per cent of the voters in a riding sign a petition to oust their MLA.
Citing some voters’ simmering anger toward Mayor David Miller’s council, Rossi said recall is a way to stop politicians from getting a “blank cheque” every four years.
“We can channel the anger and cynicism into positive action,” Rossi said, noting the system is used in several U.S. states.
He could offer no details on how recall would be implemented, saying the required number of signatories would be decided after town hall meetings and other consultations.
A spokeswoman for Ontario’s Municipal Affairs ministry, Susan Bishop, said recall for cities is “not currently part of our government’s agenda.” She noted it doesn’t exist for cities anywhere in Canada.
It could be argued that if Ontario’s provincial politicians supported recall legislation for Toronto there would be demands they do the same for themselves.
The Ontario Progressive Conservative party is studying “tools to hold elected officials to account,” including recall, and would be willing to talk to municipalities about enacting it, said Leeds-Grenville MPP Steve Clark, who is advising PC Leader Tim Hudak on democratic reform.
Rossi’s opponents, however, pilloried the proposal, calling it a recipe for non-stop campaigning and political upheaval.
“Rocco’s idea would just mean councillors are campaigning all the time, rather than serving residents,” said Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone.
“True accountability would be for our politicians to stop making promises they can’t keep and then seek re-election,” said Sarah Thomson.
And George Smitherman argued it is not what people want. “I think that’s asking for more politics, when actually what people are looking for is less politics and more focus on consensus to try and make city government work for them,” he said.
Rob Ford did not respond to a request for comment.
Rossi, a former non-profit chief executive and Liberal party fundraiser, has consistently lagged at or near the bottom of the polls.
But his campaign got a boost Monday with news that Warren Kinsella, a controversial Liberal strategist sometimes called a political “attack dog” by his detractors, has joined Rossi’s team as a volunteer adviser.
In an email to the Star from Maine, where he’s on vacation, Kinsella called Rossi “super smart . . . he’s fiscally conservative and socially progressive.”
He took aim at mayoral rivals Smitherman, the former deputy premier, and Etobicoke Councillor Rob Ford: “Rob Ford is no good on the social issues; George Smitherman is not top-of-mind when it comes to fiscal discipline,” he said.
In a phone interview, Kinsella denied he’ll provide negative spin for Rossi.
But he said he’ll constantly remind voters that Ford initially lied about a drunken altercation at a Maple Leafs game in 2006 and has struggled with full and frank disclosure as recently as this month, when it was revealed that he was caught driving drunk in Florida in 1999.
“You go at him day after day after day about his lying and his unacceptable behaviour,” Kinsella said. “I’ll be using every tool at my disposal to remind people why Ford is not fit to be the mayor of Toronto.”
Ford’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Asked for his reaction to Kinsella joining Rossi, Smitherman said: “That’s one person. Rocco’s lost people; he’s gained one, but overall, Warren Kinsella is just one guy. I’ve had the chance to work with him on many campaigns.”

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