Alberta deputy premier says sovereignty act not a power grab, eyes changes to bill
Alberta's deputy premier says amendments may be needed to clear up confusion over a bill that grants Premier Danielle Smith and her cabinet unfettered power outside the legislature to rewrite laws and direct agencies to resist federal rules.
“We will consider amendment(s) to Bill 1 to clarify this to avoid confusion,” said Kaycee Madu in a series of Twitter posts on Wednesday and Thursday.
Madu said his reading of the bill indicates that cabinet does not have such power and all unilateral cabinet decisions would still have to go back to the legislature for approval.
“It then goes through the normal cabinet process and ultimately a bill will be tabled,” wrote Madu, who is a lawyer and Alberta's former justice minister.
However, the bill does not state that cabinet decisions made under the act would have to go back to the house.
Madu's office did not return a request for comment or explanation about whether amendments are coming. Smith's other deputy premier, Nathan Neudorf, has said he, too, believes legislative safeguards are in place but he hasn't read the eight-page bill.
Justice Minister Tyler Shandro, who is helping Smith shepherd the bill through the house, told reporters he wasn't aware of Madu's comments. He said the United Conservative Party government is listening to reaction and concerns.
“We're hearing the feedback on opportunities to make (the bill) more clear,” said Shandro. “No decisions have been made (on amendments).”
The bill, titled the Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act, was introduced Tuesday by Smith.
Smith has described it as a deliberately confrontational tool to reset the relationship with a federal government she accuses of interfering in constitutionally protected areas of provincial responsibility from energy development to health care.
Political scientists, the Opposition NDP and constitutional experts say the bill grants sweeping powers to cabinet that are normally reserved for extreme circumstances, like natural disasters, that require swift legislative action.
Those changes, they say, make it dangerous to democracy.
Under the bill, cabinet would decide when Ottawa is interfering in Alberta jurisdiction through a law, policy or program or through a looming federal initiative it believes may cause harm.
Cabinet would send a resolution to the legislative assembly spelling out the nature of the harm and the remedies to fix it.
If the legislature gives its approval, that is where its involvement ends and cabinet takes over.
The bill grants cabinet powers to unilaterally rewrite laws without sending them back to the legislature for debate or approval. Cabinet would be allowed to direct public agencies, including police, municipalities, school boards, post-secondary institutions and health regions to flout federal laws.
The bill gives cabinet wide latitude on how to interpret the resolution it receives from the assembly. It says cabinet “should” follow the direction of the house, but doesn't mandate it. Instead, cabinet is told to exercise its new extraordinary powers however it deems “necessary or advisable.”
Smith and other members of her front bench are in lockstep on saying the bill stipulates direct legislative oversight over cabinet's actions.
She repeated it in the house Thursday.
Smith also accused the Opposition NDP of “fear-mongering” that “somehow this act gives power to cabinet to unilaterally alter legislation behind closed doors, despite the fact that it does not.”
NDP Leader Rachel Notley responded, “We have heard from no less than seven different legal experts, public servants and constitutional lawyers, who confirm a simple truth: this bill gives the premier the so-called Henry VIII power to write laws behind closed doors with zero input from this assembly.”
Law professor Martin Olszynski, who has written extensively on Smith's bill since she first proposed it in the spring, said it clearly gives cabinet unfettered power to rewrite laws. He asked why, if the bill respects the existing legislative process, as Madu contends, is it needed at all?
“On its face, this is absurd,” Olszynski, with the University of Calgary, said in an interview.
Constitutional law professor Eric Adams at the University of Alberta agreed that what Madu said doesn't square with the text of the bill.
“I can't see anything in Section 4 (of the bill) that says the cabinet is required to table an amendment and subject it to the normal legislative process,” said Adams.
“Section 4 would seem to say the opposite.
“I'm confused by the government's suggestions otherwise.”
Smith has delivered a mixed message on how the bill would ultimately be used.
On Tuesday, her office sent documentation to reporters saying the government hopes to use it in the spring, but that same day she told a news conference it's a last-resort bill and she hopes to never use it.
Indigenous leaders have criticized the bill as heavy-handed and divisive. Business groups, including the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, warn that its legal uncertainty is not good for business and investment.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2022.
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
With the anniversary of Ukraine's invasion by Russia around the corner, CTV News sat down with a Russian warfare expert to discuss how he sees the conflict playing out and what happens next.
According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, as of Thursday morning there were extreme cold or winter storm warnings active from coast to coast, with the harshest extreme cold warnings stretching from northern Alberta all the way to Nova Scotia.
Would you pay $300 a year for quick access to a nurse? Dealing with demand, Ontario doctors get creative
Paid subscriptions to on-demand care are among the many strategies primary health-care providers in Ontario are adopting in order to meet increased demand for access to doctors in the past year, while also managing staffing shortages.
Nestle Canada says it is winding down its frozen meals and pizza business in Canada over the next six months. The four brands that will no longer be sold in the freezer aisle at Canadian grocery stores are Delissio, Stouffer's, Lean Cuisine and Life Cuisine.
A paramedic signing off for duty for the last time got choked up and teary-eyed during his final radio call to colleagues.
Hundreds of customers who scan QR codes for restaurant menus across Canada are being surprised by secret menus instead, revealing the hidden costs behind the food they eat.
One of Saskatchewan’s oldest hockey rinks has garnered national attention for its unique features and unusual design.
The U.S. is tracking a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that has been spotted over U.S. airspace for a couple days, but the Pentagon decided not to shoot it down due to risks of harm for people on the ground, officials said Thursday.
As the most romantic day of the year approaches, Canada's 100 most romantic restaurants for 2023 have been revealed for those who might consider booking a table for Valentine's Day dinner.
Calgary police are investigating after a carjacking at a northeast dealership on Thursday afternoon.
Calgary's Alexandria Loutitt did it again Thursday afternoon, winning gold at the FIS Nordic Jr World Ski Championships in Whistler.
A Calgary pro wrestling legend has passed away.
Aaron Benneweis, 46, has been charged by Saskatoon Police with sexual assault and sexual exploitation of a minor while in a position of trust or authority.
Brian Hodgkinson always knew there was benzene in natural gas — after all, he spent 40 years working with it for SaskPower, then SaskEnergy.
A report written and reviewed by Saskatoon Water is calling on the city to create a warning system, in particular for drivers, when roadways become “dangerously flooded” due to heavy rain.
One of Saskatchewan’s oldest hockey rinks has garnered national attention for its unique features and unusual design.
The final details are being chiselled into place at the REAL District in preparation for the second annual Frost Festival taking place Feb. 3 to 12.
The Farmer and Rancher Mental Health (FARMh) Initiative has launched a mental wellness network along with a virtual toolbox full of mental health resources for the agriculture community.
On the day that Shubenacadie Sam predicted six more weeks of winter, there are extreme cold warnings cautioning that the coldest air of the season is about to arrive in the Maritimes.
Police in Sackville, N.B., are investigating after seven children ingested cannabis edibles at a middle school on Wednesday.
An extreme cold warning has been issued across the region, with some saying the arctic air could break record-low temperatures in the Maritimes.
'We win or it’s free' paralegal bribed court clerk in traffic ticket fixing scheme: testimony alleges
A paralegal firm whose tagline is “we win or it’s free” bribed a Toronto traffic court clerk to change legal records to make it look like they had won, said the clerk in the first time he has testified publicly about the case.
Toronto and most of Ontario are in for a frigid bout of winter weather, according to Environment Canada.
A group of Ontario Greens have put together a counteroffer for Liberals trying to poach their leader.
After an extremely mild month of January, the province is bracing for a blast of arctic air that will move in tonight and last until Saturday. Environment and Climate Change Canada has issued extreme cold warnings that covers most of the province with wind chills expected to be between -38 and -42 across the South and -50 across Northern Quebec.
A beloved man who was a fixture on the streets of Montreal's Notre-Dame-de-Grace neighbourhood died last year from a combination of street drugs in his system, including fentanyl, a coroner has ruled.
Medicago's parent company has announced that the Quebec City-based biopharmaceutical company, which developed a vaccine against COVID-19, will cease operations.
EXTREME COLD WARNING
EXTREME COLD WARNING | Temperatures to drop to -30 C the next two nights in Ottawa
Environment Canada has issued an extreme cold warning with Ottawa expected to see its coldest temperatures in years.
Two parents are facing charges of criminal negligence causing bodily harm after a toddler suffered an opioid overdose at a home in Kingston, Ont. last week.
As March Break approaches, travel agents are experiencing a surge in bookings, with many families choosing to travel to Disney World in Florida despite the rising cost.
Police say they’ve arrested multiple people and one person was taken to hospital following reports of an armed robbery at Conestoga Mall on Thursday.
'Time to move on': Reaction as Udo Haan found not criminally responsible for wife’s death, house explosion
A Kitchener man, who was charged with killing his wife and then blowing up their home in 2018, has been found not criminally responsible.
A blast of cold Arctic air is expected to reach southern Ontario Thursday night paired with possible heavy blowing snow, according to Environment Canada.
An argument between two young children playing outside together escalated to violence when a parent got involved, a North Bay mom says.
The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. is holding a big reveal Friday morning: the winner of a $48 million Lotto 6/49 Gold Ball draw.
The past few weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster for 16-year-old Ra'Jah Mohamed, a student at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School.
New documents show what led to a couple handing out cannabis-infused gummies to children in Winnipeg - and what happened in the hours directly after.
Ducks Unlimited Canada is celebrating World Wetlands Day by highlighting a success story in Niverville, Man.
A mobile home owner could potentially be out thousands of dollars after learning her home might not be insurable.
A man was found fatally shot in a vehicle on a residential street in Burnaby Thursday afternoon, and homicide investigators have been called to the scene.
Strong winds are expected to arrive Friday afternoon and last until the evening.
Hidden along old logging roads and tucked in near rivers and waterways, are campers who have made Crown land near the Chilliwack River their homes.
Hazmat teams were called to the BC Cancer Agency building in Victoria on Thursday due to reports of a "noxious odour" in the building.
A furry mascot endemic only to Vancouver Island is predicting six more weeks of winter on Groundhog Day.
The tight-knit community of Quadra Island, B.C., is grieving the death of 39-year-old Jessica McLaggan, whose death is being investigated as a homicide.