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In the aftermath of the Recall Gondek campaign, petitioner Landon Johnston is set to meet with Alberta Premier Danielle Smith to discuss potential changes to Alberta’s recall legislation.

Johnston submitted his final count of signatures, 72,271, on Thursday night.

Johnston had to collect 514,284 signatures in 60 days, representing 40% of eligible voters of Calgary’s population. During the last municipal election, Gondek received 176,455 of the 393,090 votes cast.

Despite receiving a fraction of the necessary signatures, Johnston said he felt the process was successful. He said he started this process alone and didn’t expect to receive any signatures at all. 

“With the boundaries dealt to us through this process, that number is incredible,” he said. 

“My hope was that people that disagree on things would have a conversation and realize they have more in common than they tend to be told,” he added.

Johnston told True North, in an interview, that he was motivated to start the recall campaign because Gondek’s policies have cost Calgarians a lot of money.

“She doesn’t seem to think that matters to us. And that made me really mad. And, I saw an opportunity through the legislation to get my voice heard, and I took it,” he said.

Johnston elaborated on the numerous boundaries. He said that the campaign fell in the middle ground between not being a campaign and being one, disallowing them from putting up campaign signs where they’d normally be allowed. Johnston added that finance rules were very confusing or non-existent for recall campaigns. Lastly, he said that people used the campaign for their own gain. 

“Whether that was the NDP, the Liberals, or the UCP to gain data and donations under the premise of the petition itself,” he said. 

True North previously reported that the two women caught defacing a Recall Gondek sign won’t be criminally charged but will be required to do a program for first-time offenders. 

“It’s open season for election signs. If there’s no consequences to those actions, then a lot of people are going to use that as an opportunity, which is really sad,” said Johnston. He filed a Freedom of Information Act to receive the investigative report and bodycam footage to determine why they weren’t charged and awaits a response.

The campaign featured hundreds of unpaid volunteers who worked daily for multiple hours.

“Support from Calgarians was insane. Nobody asked them to; nobody forced them to do this. Nobody paid them. They did it because they care about their city,” said Johnston.

He added that numerous businesses stepped up, allowing the campaigners to sit in their establishments to collect signatures. He didn’t want to name names given potential recourse from “evil people” but said he considered the businesses brave and honourable for offering support. 

During the 60-day process, Johnston did not take a day off and worked 12 to 16 hours daily. 

Johnston is self-employed and owns an air conditioning and furnace installations business. His wife is a nurse who helped financially support him during the months he took off. 

He said that his fear, anxiety, and urge to quit was offset by the many people who came up to him and gave him high fives, hugged him, and thanked him.

“I don’t regret anything. I’m glad we did it. We really pushed the boundaries of this legislation, and hopefully, we did a good enough job to prove it would be impossible to get 500,000 signatures for the least favourable mayor in the history of Calgary,” said Johnston.

In a ThinkHQ survey from December 2023, Mayor Gondek’s approval stood at 30%.

Despite being happy with the campaign’s outcome, Johnston said he does not expect Gondek or the municipal government to take anything away from this process. 

“They do not care about the people. They do not care about what happens to average Calgarians. Their first thought when they wake up is: How do I get re-elected? It’s never what’s best for us, what’s best for the city. They’re always thinking about themselves. We need more people in politics that are going to put the people above themselves,” said Johnston.

Throughout the 60-day process, Johnston said that one of the main lessons he took away was that politicians do not care about the average person. 

“They win because people are fed up, and they have these campaign promises. And if you look at this mayor’s campaign promises, she did not fulfill or even get close to fulfilling any of those promises she made,” he said. 

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith pledged to sit down with Johnston after the campaign to explore improving the legislation. 

“I’m going to really pressure her to make this a fair legislation. It should never be easy, but it should at least be fair and possible,” said Johnston.

He said that the first change he will recommend is to base the requirement on the votes cast in the last election. For example, 35% of the 393,090 votes cast in Calgary’s last election would be 137,581 votes.

He also plans to suggest extending the campaigns to 90 days, saying that 60 days was not enough time to get started and get the ball rolling.

Had the requirement been 137,581 votes, Johnston said the goal would have been attainable. Out of every 100 people he approached, he said five or six said they did not like the mayor but didn’t want to waste their time with an impossible task.

He pledged to work to reform the legislation with Smith and act as a future resource to those who want to file future petitions. 

True North reached out to Mayor Jyoti Gondek for comment but received no reply.