Smith Introduces Alberta Sovereignty in a United Canada Act

Legislation commits to giving Alberta the power to order provincial agencies to act against federal laws it deems unconstitutional or harmful to Albertans

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After months of anticipation, Premier Danielle Smith introduced her much-maligned landmark law in the Alberta Legislative Assembly on Tuesday, legislation that grants her cabinet new power to change laws without the approval of the legislature. Bedroom.

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The Alberta Sovereignty within a United Canada Act pledges to give Alberta the power to order provincial agencies to act against federal laws it deems unconstitutional or harmful to Albertans, achieving much of this that Smith promised throughout the leadership campaign under Alberta’s old sovereignty act.

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« This legislation is designed to be a constitutional shield to protect Albertans from unconstitutional federal laws and policies that harm our province’s economy or violate Alberta’s provincial rights, » Smith said as he introduced the bill. .

The law, introduced as Bill 1, seeks to shift the burden of constitutionality to the federal government, calling on Ottawa to challenge applications of the new law in court, rather than the province taking the federal government to court. for laws he disagrees with. .

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He also relies on the opinion of Alberta MPs to characterize federal initiatives as unconstitutional, harmful to Albertans, or both. The bill does not include a definition of “harmful” to Albertans.

Using these categories, a minister would propose a motion identifying a specific federal policy or piece of legislation and explaining how it goes against the constitution or is detrimental to the province.

The Legislative Assembly would then debate and vote on this motion. If passed, the resolution would authorize Cabinet to undertake a number of actions.

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These include giving direction to “provincial entities,” such as a health authority, school board, police department, Crown-controlled agency, publicly funded service provider, or provincial agency.

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No appeal mechanism is provided for in the bill. It could be challenged in court, but the law provides for a 30-day period to file an application for judicial review, instead of six months.

The law also grants the cabinet the unusual power to change legislation by decree, usually a power reserved only for regulatory changes. This is akin to the temporary emergency powers the UCP government gave the cabinet to suspend legislation at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government said the legislation would not give it the power to order individuals or companies to violate federal law.

The bill protects provincial entities from civil liability when they act in good faith under a directive issued under the bill, government officials said.

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He added that he will « defend his provincial jurisdiction » while fully respecting Indigenous and treaty rights, the Constitution of Canada and the courts. It is unclear whether the government has ever consulted on Indigenous rights; over the past few weeks, chiefs from every first nation community in alberta have spoken out against the bill.

The province has also addressed concerns that the federal government could use the constitutional power of disallowance — a power that hasn’t been used since the 1940s — to essentially veto legislation.

“If the federal government were to use the power of disallowance against the law, it would cause an unprecedented constitutional crisis. Although we do not know for sure, we believe this scenario is unlikely,” the government said.

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Smith told his ministers to prepare special resolutions under the proposed law for the spring legislative session to push back against federal Bill C-69, any potential mandatory reductions in fertilizers and emissions reductions, confiscation firearms or conditional funding in health care and education. .

Although these examples have been given, it is not yet known how this would happen. Notably, the RCMP – which polices much of rural and small town Alberta – is not directly targeted by the legislation, although the RCMP may be subject to ministerial orders, government officials said.

An order made under the law would last up to two years, but could be extended for another two years.

Smith’s original leadership campaign proposal was modeled after an article in last year’s Free Alberta Strategy, and it was criticized throughout the UCP leadership race by many members of the UCP caucuses, including most of Smith’s leadership rivals.

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Critics, including former premier Jason Kenney, who called it a « cockamamie, » warned it would be illegal and scare off investors from the province.

All current opposition NDP members voted against the bill on Tuesday, with deputy party leader Sarah Hoffman saying the law gave Smith’s government ‘dictatorial powers’ that would lead to ‘more cost and chaos « .

« Is the new government really willing to end essential federal funding for our health care system, our housing or our child care? » she says.

« Job creators want stability and certainty, not sovereignty. »

Lawyers have said the proposal would be unconstitutional, inconsistent with the rule of law and against the separation of powers between different levels of government.

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“Provincial Entities” as defined in the Act include:

– a provincial public institution,

– a provincial organization controlled by the Crown,

– an entity that exercises a power, duty or function under provincial law,

– an entity that receives a subsidy or other public funds from the provincial government that is contingent on the provision of a public service,

– a regional health authority,

– a public post-secondary institution,

– a school board,

– a common,

– a municipal or regional police force, and

– any other similar provincially regulated entity mentioned in the regulations.

More soon …

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