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'Serious issues and questions': Recall Gondek organizer frustrated with process, co-opt attempts

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The man who started a movement to recall Calgary's mayor is concerned a lack of regulations around the petition could put personal information at risk.

Landon Johnston stands behind his efforts but is frustrated with the process and, now, attempts to co-opt his campaign.

He started a petition to remove Jyoti Gondek because he was frustrated with city hall but now he's feeling the same about the legislature.

"The minister knows I have some serious issues and questions with this," Johnston said.

Johnston says there are concerning gaps in the recall legislation the province introduced in 2021.

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

"I warned the privacy commissioner halfway through this project that the loophole is anyone can co-opt this petition for their own gain," he said.

"And I would rather die than have anybody's information on my watch be used for anything other than its intended purposes."

Now, Johnston is dealing with what appear to be attempts to co-opt his petition by something called Project YYC.

CTV News obtained a document naming high-profile Albertans who allegedly gave tens of thousands of dollars to its leadership and recall campaign team.

But people on that list say they have never heard of Project YYC and did not donate to it.

Including the wife of a major Calgary homebuilder:

"I don't make $50,000 donations to any political group," said Edith Wenzel, whose family started Shane Homes.

And David Parker, leader of the group Take Back Alberta (TBA).

"I have no involvement. I've never donated to them," Parker said.

"There are a lot of people who do not like me in this province and would love to see some kind of scandal."

The province introduced recall legislation with financing rules at the provincial level but not at the municipal level.

Johnston says he's contacted the province many times for help navigating the legislation but has never received a response.

He also says he has nothing to do with Project YYC and that he's spent about $1,500 of his own money and received another $3,000 from people to help put up lawn signs around the city.

"There's been whiffs of nefarious things and I've done absolutely everything I can to protect the sanctity of this petition," Johnston said.

Johnston says the number of names required is unrealistic because it's based on population and not voting age – people under 18 can't sign the petition – making it harder to secure the more than half a million signatures necessary.

He also has to collect them in person.

While some critics say it shouldn't be easy to recall your elected official, Johnston doesn't think it should be impossible either.

CTV News reached out to Ric McIver's office and received the following statement:

"As the minister of municipal affairs, it would be improper to intervene in an ongoing recall petition. We are reviewing the recall provisions, to explore opportunities to enhance accountability of elected officials and strengthen oversight."

CTV News also reached out to Project YYC but has not heard back.

**Johnston originally said he had no affiliation with Project YYC because he did not realize a group he is working with is, in fact, Project YYC.

He said the group he knew as Recall Gondek contacted him after he started his petition, saying they were planning to do the same and could work with him to get signatures.

He said he transferred $3,000 of donations and his own money to them to put up signs.

Johnston called CTV News on Friday to clarify when he realized the error by looking at a bank statement. 

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