Alberta Premier Danielle Smith backtracks on sovereignty law, by 2023


In a year-end interview with Postmedia, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith discusses her flagship policy, the Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act

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After the changing leadership of the United Conservative Party dominated headlines earlier this year, it was Prime Minister Danielle Smith’s flagship policy that became a legislative lightning rod following her victory, although her future over the new year remains uncertain.

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The Alberta Sovereignty in a United Canada Act — introduced and passed as Bill 1 — affirms the province’s power to retaliate against the federal government with what Smith called « a clear message in Ottawa.

But in a year-end interview with Postmedia, Smith claimed to have few immediate plans in 2023 to send that message.

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« Hopefully nothing, » she said when asked what the next step in the act was.

« Hopefully Ottawa stays in its own lane, » she added. « That was the whole point. »

While declaring there was no need to unleash the law, Smith at the same time instructed Cabinet ministers to review federal legislation to find potential uses.

“The problem is that the federal government has invaded our jurisdiction so many times and in so many ways that it has given us ample reason to use it,” she said of the apparent contradiction, listing emissions caps, child care and fertilizer regulation as potential. examples of federal intrusion.

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« I wanted to make sure the federal government understood the areas I was looking at, » she said.

« If they proceed in some of the things that there have been statements about, we’re going to have to put that shield up. »

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith speaks to Postmedia during a year-end interview in her office at the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton on December 14, 2022.
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith speaks to Postmedia during a year-end interview in her office at the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton on December 14, 2022. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia

Smith also highlighted his government’s package affordability measureschanges to the police law and the reversal of his power to tear up his agreement with doctors while other achievements over the past month.

« I spent a lot of work with my caucus and with my cabinet, identifying their priorities and I think we have a very good program. »

The Challenges of Sovereignty Law

This program did not meet all expectations.

After attracting criticism and clarify laterremarks in October describing those who choose not to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as the « most discriminated group » she had seen in her lifetime, her promise to protect this group through the Human Rights Act man did not materialize.

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“I had come up with something during the directorship which turned out to be an incomplete approach,” she said, adding that more information on this file may come in the new year.

« I have a number of things I’m considering and we’ll make more announcements about that in the future. »

This includes the recent, low-key appointment of Tracy Allard as Parliamentary Secretary for Civil Liberties.

The Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to questions from Postmedia about whether Allard’s responsibilities included advocating for the unvaccinated, but said the western standard that this was part of Allard’s mandate in his new role.

His iconic act of sovereignty was also the subject of initial criticism around the swipe powers he initially granted to the cabinet, prompting the opposition to call that the act was undemocratic.

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“I was a little surprised by some of the concerns that came up,” Smith said of the backlash.

« Maybe there was a misinterpretation of what we wanted to accomplish there. »

Amendments to the bill alleviated those concerns for some, but Indigenous leaders strongly pushed back against the law.

Treaty 6 Chiefs criticized the legislationclaiming that Smith « does not understand the treaty or our inherent rights, nor does it respect them ».

More recently, The Onion Lake Cree Nation sued their governmentsaying they weren’t properly consulted.

“These lands are treaty lands, and this law directly violates our Treaty 6,” said Chief Henry Lewis.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith speaks to Postmedia during a year-end interview in her office at the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton on December 14, 2022.
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith speaks to Postmedia during a year-end interview in her office at the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton on December 14, 2022. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia

Smith’s office responded that the law does not interfere with treaty rights, with the premier saying she plans further meetings with individual chiefs.

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“Each nation has very different issues with the provincial government and very different concerns they each raise,” she said. « I always thought we had a partnership and a nation-to-nation relationship. »

Upcoming spring budget

Looking ahead to 2023, Smith says the legislature will meet again in February, with a session expected to be capped by his government’s first budget.

Most of the policies she has spoken about as a candidate for UCP leadership are already underway, but she says there is still much to be done to improve the state of the health system.

She cited an anecdote of a nurse who claimed to be unable to stock the staff refrigerator with ginger ale due to cost as well as another story of a hospital unable to procure two chairs for its waiting room as examples of how she believes more restructuring and local control is needed.

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« If you’re going to micromanage every decision in every health care setting, you’ll get bad results, » she said.

« We are making more decisions at the local level so that we can solve some of the bottlenecks. »

  1. Affordability and Public Services Minister Matt Jones, Finance Minister Travis Toews and Seniors, Community and Social Services Minister Jeremy Nixon share details on legislation to support Albertans during the affordability crisis on Wednesday, December 7, 2022 in Edmonton.

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Smith again confirmed that she plans to abide by the province’s fixed election law which would see voters go to the polls next May.

While her party is behind rival New Democrats in the number of nominations, she expects the UCP to catch up by early 2023.

« We’ll be ready to have our full slate of candidates probably by the end of February or early March, » she said.

« We still have a lot of work to do. »

mblack@postmedia.com

Twitter @ByMatthewBlack

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