Alberta House leader doubts Danielle Smith’s proposed sovereignty bill will pass

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The Alberta government House leader says he doubts controversial legislation designed to ignore federal laws and court rulings – as promised by United Conservative leadership candidate Danielle Smith – will pass in the Legislative Assembly.

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Jason Nixon, who is also finance minister, said Smith’s description of his Alberta sovereignty law would make it fundamentally illegal and unenforceable, bad for business and politically catastrophic because it promises far too much what she cannot offer.

“I would be surprised if a bill as described passed inside the legislature,” Nixon told reporters Wednesday when asked to speculate on whether the sovereignty law would find broad support within the United Conservative Caucus in order to be passed by the legislature.

« That would be calling for breaking the law, which is simply not something lawmakers would do. »

Nixon said Prime Minister Jason Kenney’s government has fought — and will continue to fight — for a better deal with the federal government through measures such as consensus building and the use of legal challenges.

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But he added, “Presenting to Albertans in any way that there is a magic bullet that the legislature could pass tomorrow that would somehow make all of these problems go away is not factual.”

He suggested that the sovereignty bill would not only lead to uncertainty for business investment, but also foster misunderstanding with party members and voters by promising something that cannot be achieved.

“The number one way to get Albertans mad at us would be to promise you can do things with certain laws that you can’t and then not deliver. It will make them very, very, very upset,” Nixon said.

“So I would caution anyone who wants to lead our party to make sure they have all their ducks in line before they start offering solutions on federal-provincial relations.

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Smith, a former Wildrose party leader, radio talk show host and businesswoman, is seen as one of the frontrunners in the race to replace Kenney as party leader and prime minister.

The new leader is to be chosen by party ranks on October 6, with the next general election due in May next year.

Wednesday was the deadline for potential leadership contestants to file applications with 1,000 supporter signatures and at least a portion of the $175,000 entry fee, which includes a refundable good conduct payment.

Smith, along with former finance minister Travis Toews and member of the United Conservative Legislature Brian Jean, have already filed their papers and officially accepted as candidates.

Four other candidates submitted their papers but were still awaiting authorization. They are former cabinet ministers Rebecca Schulz and Rajan Sawhney, UCP caucus member Leela Aheer and party member and independent MP Todd Loewen.

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The last two candidates – former investment banker Jon Horsman and former member of the legislature Raj Sherman – struggled to secure the required 1,000 signatures.

Horsman announced Wednesday afternoon that he was quitting.

Nixon said he believes there are plenty of good candidates in the race, but believes Toews is the best candidate to succeed Kenney and defeat the NDP opposition in the next election.

Smith, responding in a statement, said « Minister Nixon is wrong. » She added that the Sovereignty Act would only be invoked on a case-by-case basis and only after gaining support from members of the chamber in a free vote each time.

She said that when it comes to votes on whether to oppose further federal restrictions on COVID-19, « I suspect such a vote would pass by a healthy margin. »

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Smith announced last month that if she wins the leadership, she will immediately introduce a bill giving her government the discretion to refuse to enforce federal laws or court rulings it deems an intrusion on provincial rights. or a threat to the interests of Alberta.

She said she would also implement plans to create an Alberta police force to replace the RCMP and lay the groundwork for a separate agency to collect taxes, which would be needed to give teeth to the sovereignty legislation.

Smith said it’s critical Alberta immediately draws a line in the sand when it comes to federal intrusions in areas like energy development and COVID-19 measures.

The proposed law has been denounced by many jurists as a profound violation of Canada’s constitutional order, separation of powers and the rule of law that underpins a healthy democracy.

Last month, other leadership candidates debated Smith’s sovereignty bill, with most, including Toews, rejecting it.

Toews has the support of more than 25 ruling caucus members in the 87-seat legislature while Smith has two.

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