Danielle Smith presented the Sovereignty Act within a United Canada in the legislature on Tuesday while trying to reassure Albertans that it has nothing to do with leaving the country.
Government documents say the legislation is not certain to survive a court challenge, but it is “probable” that it will.
“Ottawa’s long and painful history of abuse and constitutional overreach has caused tremendous frustration for Albertans for decades,” Smith told reporters.
“In response, we are finally saying to the federal government: ‘No more.’ It’s time to stand up for Alberta.”
Smith promised an “act of sovereignty” during his candidacy for leader of the United Conservative Party. She won that race on October 6 with approximately 54 percent of the vote on the sixth ballot. She was sworn in as prime minister on October 11.
During a televised address last week, Smith revealed that the “within United Canada” part had been added.
Intended to be a “constitutional shield to protect Albertans from federal overreach,” the law is supposed to uphold property rights, natural resources, agriculture, firearms, economic regulation, provision of health care, education and social programs, according to the government.
“It is intended to be fully democratic and transparent. Each proposed use of the law will require a special motion to pass in the legislature, which will be subject to open discussion, scrutiny, and revision,” Smith said.
The premier said the federal government can take Alberta to court if it doesn’t like the UCP government’s sovereign positions, rather than the province having to take legal action.
HOW WOULD IT WORK?
The details of the proposed bill, and therefore the effect it could have in Alberta and Canada, have been speculated for weeks. The province released a fact sheet on Tuesday that provides an initial outline for how it would work.
If passed, the law would allow any cabinet minister, including the prime minister, to identify federal laws and initiatives deemed unconstitutional or “harmful to Albertans” and introduce a motion in the legislature to invoke them.
Those motions could also include suggestions on how to fight the Ottawa initiatives.
The MLAs would then debate and vote on the resolution in the legislature. Majority approval would be needed and the government’s MLAs, the prime minister says, would be free to vote according to his conscience.
If a motion passes, cabinet ministers would be empowered to ignore or “reject” federal policies and order provincial entities such as health authorities, school boards, municipalities or local police not to enforce them.
The government says Alberta will continue to abide by court rulings, something that was not made clear when Smith initially proposed a sovereignty law.
“Nothing in this bill implies separation, nor does it provide a means to achieve such ends. Rather, it is a way for this great province to hold the federal government accountable for the constitutional principles that serve as the foundation of our country’s governance.” . Smith said.
OPPOSITION TO THE LAW
Smith’s idea of sovereignty law was immediately controversial in Alberta, even within the government committee.
Several government MLAs spoke out against the act during the UCP leadership race and former leader and Prime Minister Jason Kenney called it “mockery” and “Alberta’s suicidal act” during his final days in office.
Kenney and others were concerned that the law would scare off businesses and jobs by making Alberta a shaky market to invest in.
But the Smith administration argues that will not happen and that federal “intrusion” into Alberta has caused “hundreds of billions of dollars to flee Alberta” over the past decade, yet no report was provided.
Kenney resigned as Calgary-Lougheed’s MLA on Tuesday.
The bill has also been called “dangerous and damaging” by the Heads of Treaties 6, 7 and 8, who vowed to fight the act during a joint press conference on November 18.
“We are offended by Danielle Smith’s upcoming sovereignty law and strongly reject it,” said Arthur Noskey, Grand Chief of Treaty 8, adding that there was no consultation with First Nations leaders.
Noskey renewed his objections in a Tuesday news release.
“The Alberta Sovereignty within a United Canada Act it is just another illegal attempt to continue the province’s deliberate abuse and exploitation of our peoples, lands, territories and resources,” the Big Chief stated.
Smith has since promised to meet with the chiefs in person to assure them that the law will not affect their rights under the treaty.
The opposition NDP voted against Smith’s sovereignty bill, partly out of concern that the bill would give the cabinet “new powers to unilaterally circumvent the democratic will of the legislature” by amending laws after they were passed. approved an initial motion. Smith denies that this is what the legislation intends.
“Danielle Smith was elected by one percent of Alberta voters and now she wants to give herself dictatorial powers,” Deputy Leader Sarah Hoffman said.
“Danielle Smith and the UCP are focused on creating more chaos, costs and conflicts with their sovereignty law.”
WHAT TRUDEAU, MINISTERS ARE SAYING ABOUT IT
When asked about the incoming act in his question period on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he’s “just going to stay focused on the things that are important to Albertans.”
“Whether it’s affordability, job creation, constructive work to combat climate change and achieve a better future. That’s what Albertans are focused on. That’s what I’ll stay focused on,” the prime minister said.
Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said he would wait until he read the legislation before commenting, but once it was tabled he would “obviously look at it very carefully” because some of what was raised around the law during the race by the leadership “may or may not involve federal jurisdiction.”
“We’re not looking for fire alarms and fighting and trouble. As I say, we have a positive relationship with the Alberta government on a number of fronts. The Alberta Legislature has sovereign constitutional jurisdiction within its own division of power, so if they propose to legislate things that are properly within the jurisdiction of the Alberta legislature, the people of Alberta and the members of that legislature are responsible for those decisions,” LeBlanc said.
“We will do the same in the Parliament of Canada, but we will not be distracted from working on positive things with all the provincial governments, and they can decide what legislation they want to introduce in their legislatures at any time. they want.”
Alberta Tourism Minister and Associate Finance Minister Randy Boissonnault told reporters that while he too wants to read the bill for himself, he is “deeply concerned by the Alberta government’s attack on Canadian unity “.
Boissonnault described Alberta’s move as an attempt to “choose” which laws apply to them, saying Albertans “don’t talk to me about sovereignty.”
“They were talking to me about jobs, about indexing the benefits they get. They were talking about the prime minister’s doing well in investigations and, frankly, they were talking about him being on Drag Race Canada… So [the] sovereignty law is not on the minds of Albertans,” he said.
With archives from Rachel Aiello of CTV News and The Canadian Press