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Calgary mayor meets with head of Recall Gondek campaign

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The Calgary citizen who started a petition to recall Mayor Jyoti Gondek met with the city's elected leader on Friday in a 20-minute, closed-door meeting.

Calgary resident Landon Johnston started the campaign to remove Gondek in January because he was frustrated with city hall and concerned about tax increases and the city's single-use plastic bylaw.

He said his first meeting with the mayor was interesting.

"The mayor was very friendly. She listened to everything I had to say," Johnston said.

"But it's still not enough."

He said they discussed transparency, affordability and the recall legislation.

Calgary's mayor said they did find common ground.

"He and I may not agree on policies, but I do think that we share a desire to do good things in Calgary," Gondek said.

Johnston said he requested the meeting through the mayor's office.

He said before creating the petition, he had been unsuccessful in getting in front of the mayor and council because his topic was not on the agenda.

Gondek says she understands the petition has resonated with some people and is going to work harder at trying to address all of the things she can, while also better explaining the decisions council is making.

"We are not focusing on the things that could be bringing us together. So, I would like to make sure that we're spotlighting things like the housing crisis, that we're spotlighting things like poverty, human rights," the mayor said.

She says council needs to work harder to find common ground because a lot of time is wasted on division.

"None of us are innocent in this. I have made comments that I shouldn't have made," she said.

"Once we fall into that trap of arguing with each other and making it very public, we become less credible to Calgarians."

Johnston said the number of names required on a recall petition is unrealistic because it's based on population and not voting age.

He has to collect the more than 514,000 signatures in person, by April 4.

The 2021 municipal election had far fewer voters, with just over 393,000 Calgarians casting a ballot.

Johnston said he was pleased Gondek agreed to work with him to try and get the province to address gaps in the recall legislation.

"It's not easy for elected officials to make it easier for them to not be in power, so I appreciate the mayor for at least giving me that," he said.

"Outside of that, I'm not happy with the job performance and so many other Calgarians deserve better than what we've had in this council chambers."

He says he hasn't heard back from the province on his concerns about the recall legislation.

Johnston suspects the petition with his name on it has been used by others for their political purposes or data gathering.

He said a lack of regulations around the petition could put personal information at risk.

Alberta's government introduced recall legislation in 2021, with funding requirements at the provincial level, but not the municipal level.

Premier Danielle Smith said Friday her minister of municipal affairs, Ric McIver, is considering changes.

"The minister is looking at ways in which we can build a little more rigour around the process, a few more rules around it," Smith said.

"We don't want to make any changes while there are active recall campaigns going on.

Johnston says about 42,000 signatures have been counted so far, and that he has thousands more waiting to be added to the tally.

"I'm going to see it through, and now that is the fight for the people that have told me they have a voice, but it's not being heard," Johnston said.

"I respect the fact that he's trying to do something that, while it may be targeted against me, at least he's engaging in a process that he has every democratic right to engage in," Gondek said. 

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