Ottawa Citizen: Hillier proposes bill to recall MPPs

Published in the Ottawa Citizen on October 30th, 2013

By Matthew Pearson

TORONTO — Randy Hillier wants to make it easier for you to fire your MPP.

The maverick member of provincial parliament for Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington introduced a private member’s bill on Wednesday that would allow Ontario voters to recall and replace their MPPs.

Hillier’s proposed legislation would allow voters to recall their MPP if, within a 60-day period, they collect signatures from 25 per cent of the number of people who voted in their riding in the last election.

On average, about 50,000 votes are cast in most provincial ridings, so Hillier says at least 12,500 signatures would need to be collected to recall a sitting MPP.

The bill would prevent recall campaigns a year before or after a scheduled election. If voters received the requisite number of signatures, a recall election would be held. A recalled MPP could run to reclaim his or her seat in that election.

Hillier says there needs to be a more practical mechanism to ensure accountability than holding an election every four years. Such legislation is long overdue in Ontario, especially after a string of recent scandals, including the costly cancellation of gas plants in Mississauga and Oakville.

“Would the Liberals have acted the way they did on the gas plants if there was a recall potential?,” Hillier said in an interview.

“Many of those scandals would be stillborn in the minds of political parties when there’s a tool such as recall.”

He cited the introduction of the harmonized sales tax in British Columbia and Ontario as an example.

Both provincial governments introduced the new tax, but in B.C., Hillier said, the prospect of potentially being recalled by angry voters compelled some members of the legislative assembly to change their positions.

A provincewide referendum later defeated the new tax, while people in Ontario were left helpless, at least until the next election.

Hillier doesn’t currently have a debate slot for private member’s time, so the bill will not be up for discussion until next spring.

The governing Liberals have not reviewed the proposed legislation.

But Hillier’s fellow Progressive Conservatives have — he had to present the bill at a caucus meeting before he could introduce it.

“I think Ontario would be a better place and elected representatives would be more effective,” he said.

Recall elections are also used in Wisconsin, California and several other jurisdictions as a way of making politicians more accountable to the voters.

“We all know that if you don’t do your job, you can be replaced — that’s true for virtually every job, and voters shouldn’t have to wait four years to hold their politicians accountable.” the MPP said.

“Politicians are elected to represent their constituents, not to collect pay cheques. By giving the voting public the opportunity to replace unaccountable elected officials midterm, politicians will need to listen to the people that elect them.”

This kind of populist measure seems fitting for Hillier, a property rights activist who founded the Ontario Landowners Association.

He previously served as his party’s labour critic but was tossed from the PCs’ shadow cabinet after an email he wrote criticizing a Tory private member’s bill was leaked to the Toronto Star.

Hillier denied breaching caucus confidentiality, but party leader Tim Hudak still fired him, saying at the time that the PCs did not need any distractions.