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Alberta UCP leadership candidate Danielle Smith promises immediate act of sovereignty

One of the favorites to replace Jason Kenney as the premier of Alberta says if she wins, legislation would come this fall to override federal laws as well as moves to create a provincial police force and a revenue collection agency. taxes.

Danielle Smith said the Legislature should pass Alberta sovereignty legislation as soon as possible to allow Alberta to reject federal dictates over COVID-19, such as ordering vaccines for children or the third dose for everyone.

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She also said it was imperative to establish an Alberta police force and a separate agency to collect taxes — needed to give sovereignty legislation teeth — because these are multi-year initiatives.

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“We want to have clear legislation so that (federal officials) understand that we’re just not going to adopt a policy that violates the rights of Albertans,” Smith said in an interview.

“It would be a mechanism for them to know that we really want to enforce our jurisdiction.”

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Alberta’s Sovereignty Act would give the legislature the discretion to refuse to enforce federal laws or court rulings that it considers an intrusion on provincial rights or a threat to provincial interests.

Smith said with Alberta’s growing economy and population, it’s critical to act now to send a message to the federal government and its United Conservative Party members that the time for simple swordsmanship is over. gone.

She said she was not a pioneer, but was following in the footsteps of provinces like Quebec and British Columbia, which chose to reject Ottawa’s dictates on policies, laws and regulations with impunity. on drugs to pipelines.

She said the UCP had a mandate to implement such sweeping legislation immediately rather than standing as a platform in the May 2023 elections.

Alberta UCP leadership candidate Danielle Smith promises immediate act of sovereignty

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She referenced a provincial referendum last fall in which nearly 62% said they wanted equalization removed from the Constitution.

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She also pointed to a Fair Deal panel that released a report two years ago urging the province to pursue self-governance issues such as a pension plan and police force in Alberta.

“There’s been enough conversation about it that I have a pretty good idea of ​​where people are at,” Smith said. “It seems to me that we have the mandate to move.”

In Calgary, Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley said Smith had no mandate to pursue such “extreme political positions.” She said the UCP should focus on solving Albertans’ problems, such as wait times for health care and rising costs due to inflation, rather than “pretending to fight with Ottawa”.

Three University of Calgary law professors have also refuted Smith’s ideas.

They said such a sovereignty law would not only be “fundamentally illegal,” but would jeopardize Canada’s constitutional order, separation of powers and rule of law that underpin a healthy democracy and protect against the “arbitrary power of the state”.

“Alberta’s Sovereignty Act charts a dangerous course in this direction,” write Martin Olszynski, Jonnette Watson Hamilton and Shaun Fluker in their analysis. Fluker is also running for the NDP in the 2023 election.

Olszynski said in an interview Thursday that while there are concerns and debate about how other provinces interpret or apply federal laws, “it is unprecedented in modern Canadian history that a political movement declares that he will ignore the courts”.

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He added that politicians who speak this way should not be tolerated.

“Once you empower someone who has explicitly and very deliberately told you they’re willing to ignore the rule of law, then they’re willing to ignore it whenever they feel like it. “

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The Sovereignty Act is the centerpiece of the Free Alberta Strategy policy proposal.

The strategy was presented last September in a policy paper written by former Wildrose party member Rob Anderson, University of Calgary political science professor Barry Cooper and lawyer Derek From.

They argue that the federal government’s laws, policies and overreach are fatally undermining Alberta’s development.

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They advocate a two-pronged strategy to assert greater Alberta autonomy within Confederation while laying the political and administrative foundations to move Alberta to secession and sovereignty should negotiations fail. .

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Smith is one of eight candidates vying to replace Kenney as party leader and premier.

She is a former leader of the Wildrose party, which merged with Kenney’s Progressive Conservatives in 2017 to create the current UCP.

The winner will be named on October 6. Early polls suggest Smith is one of the frontrunners.

© 2022 The Canadian Press