Maybe Danielle Smith doesn’t want to use the Sovereignty Act after all.
Premier Danielle Smith has said so many things about her Alberta Sovereignty Act, some of them seemingly at odds with each other.
A month ago, on the day she launched Alberta’s most erratically controversial bill in recent memory, Smith said, « I hope we never have to use this bill » – that she wanted him to get Ottawa’s attention and get them out of provincial jurisdiction. This way, the Smith government would not feel aggrieved enough to order provincial agencies to refuse to enforce federal laws or other drastic and possibly unconstitutional measures.
Yet at that same press conference, she said she had asked ministers to find examples of perceived federal overreach: « We plan to table a number of special motions under this act in the next session. spring legislative.
Both cannot be true, even if she tries to play both the hawk and the dove of Western alienation. Premier Dove sat down for an interview with CBC Calgary this week. Smith has given the impression that she is unlikely to use the explosive order until after the provincial election in May – which risks upsetting her hard-line base, but temporarily comforting the more moderate urban establishment of her United Conservative Party, which knows how much the general public do not like Smith’s first law.
Sovereignty, set aside
As she went through various federal snubs related to Alberta sovereignty under a United Canada Act, Smith noted how the threat subsided without opening a box of ASWUCA.
Bill C-69 on environmental assessment and banning single-use plastics? Alberta’s legal challenges — which predate Smith’s premiership — will suffice for now, she said.
New rules on carbon emissions for the development of fertilizers and fossil fuels? She suggested that Ottawa back off (or, perhaps, Western rhetoric has been inflated).
Gun restrictions? Alberta is doing things that look like sovereignty laws, like taking provincial control of gun lawsuits and discourage enforcement of the rules, but without invoking the new law.
“So there are a few things I thought we might need to use it on, but over time we found other alternatives,” Smith told me.
« And I think that’s what people would want me to do. I think they want us to defend our constitutional jurisdiction. They want us to use every tool at our disposal. And at the moment, we’ve found other means of defending our constitutional territory ».
After saying a month ago that she would invoke the law several times this spring to resolve ongoing turf issues, Smith said, « I don’t see anything imminent right now. » She added, because there’s always a but: « But, you know, that could always change. »
The change in posture around the Sovereignty Act has been a rare certainty in that act’s bumpy ride through 2022. In October, it seemed like a revelation that Alberta’s new premier respect court decisions while claiming provincial sovereignty.
And it’s only been a week since Smith’s office suggested using the Sovereignty Act to thwart the Liberals’ mandate for electric vehicle sales by 2035. It’s unclear what blockages Alberta might create, given that vehicle standards are federal, and this province is devoid of any manufacturing of automobiles or trucks.
Health Spending Accounts: Not So Fast
In his interview, Smith revealed that another big plan will likely be on hold until the province votes: health spending accounts. One of his few specific health care promises during the campaign was an app-based program that gave every Albertan $300 to spend on uninsured health care of their choice: psychiatry, eye care, physiotherapy. , naturopathy, etc.
« I’m not sure it will be done before the next election, but hopefully we will at least have some sort of beta test that we can do so people see an innovative approach to healthcare, » Smith said. . It’s too big, the premier has learned, to create a new universal entitlement program connecting 4.5 million Albertans and over $1.3 billion in tax redistributed to thousands of health service providers via a centrally managed digital platform, all within months of taking Office.
Federal health care money, or not
While Smith has little out-of-province support for her fight for ‘sovereignty’, she is marching alongside her fellow premiers in another federal fight – to extract more health care transfers from Ottawa without prying conditions. attached to those dollars. Trudeau told CBC this month that « I will fully participate in financing it, as long as these real improvements are made », but Smith vows to resist. « We don’t plan to sacrifice how we enforce our policies here, » she said.
Will she take her refusal of the federal rules so firmly that she will refuse Ottawa’s money? She won’t say.
But, she suggested, Alberta’s health care system may not need more federal funds.
« I don’t know. I’m of the opinion that we can’t just see money as the solution here, » Smith said. « I think people expect us to provide better health care within the budget we have. »
This rhetoric may be consistent with the reality of Alberta’s massive surpluses and Smith’s fiscally conservative ideals, but it’s at odds with the united front that other premiers wish to put forward. There is art and scenography, of course, in the federal-provincial disputes; Signaling that you don’t need extra dollars from the national government is not the classic way to prime a cash pump.
« Every time I made a mistake »
But Smith prides herself on not being a textbook politician — especially if the role model for the textbooks was predecessor Jason Kenney, a centralizing leader for whom consultation and listening often seemed like tick boxes. Asked about the pressures inside the conservative tent to constrain her often unpredictable comments, Smith said she would be as careful and precise as possible, but thinks voters « would rather I be natural and a real person than than to become a robot ».
While other leaders play down their missteps, she chooses a different approach, perhaps because of their frequency and importance – from the 2014 run-up that shattered both Wildrose opposition and the conservatives she joined, to this year’s series of statements urging clarification on the unvaccinated face unprecedented discriminationcomparing Ottawa’s treatment of Alberta to that of the First Nationsand some thoughts on ukraine which looked like Russian propaganda.
« I feel like I’ve had a lot of learning opportunities in my story, » Smith said, laughing at his own characterization of the mistakes. « And every time I goofed, and I’ve done a lot, it seems to work. I learn something from it and grow from it. »
She compares herself to former Prime Minister Ralph Klein and his willingness to apologize for mistakes and move on, but Klein has never so directly identified the blunder-contrition-recovery pattern as his identity.
What also ties her to Klein, Smith said, is a penchant for publicly floating trial balloons and altering political plans as comments come in. His leadership campaign promise to create new human rights protections for the unvaccinated was one deflated balloon.
But if so many ideas can be tossed around or blown away, what should Albertans take seriously?
« I think people have a really good BS detector, » she replied.
As for the cattle dung detector of a Prime Minister who is used to skepticism about vaccines and other alternative health sciences on COVID, Smith said she « tends to be quite trusting » of varying voices.
« When you get a lot of feedback from a lot of people, eventually a truth emerges, » she said. « And so I think I tend to listen to a much wider range of academics and experts and opinions than most people. And I think that will make me a better decision-maker as a result. »
Soon, millions of Albertans (experts and non-experts) can weigh in on his premiership and decision-making abilities. That’s five months away, and who knows how many approaches to sovereignty law have evolved.