Alberta NDP says premier's rejection of federal authority lays separation groundwork
Alberta’s NDP Opposition leader says Premier Danielle Smith's comments rejecting the legitimacy of the federal government betray her unspoken plan to lay the groundwork for eventual separation.
Rachel Notley cited Smith’s comments to the house just before members passed her sovereignty bill earlier Thursday, in which Smith rejected the federal government’s overarching authority.
“It's not like Ottawa is a national government,'' Smith told the house at 12:30 a.m. Thursday.
"The way our country works is that we are a federation of sovereign, independent jurisdictions. They are one of those signatories to the Constitution and the rest of us, as signatories to the Constitution, have a right to exercise our sovereign powers in our own areas of jurisdiction.”
Notley, speaking to reporters, said, “At 12:30 last night when she thought nobody was listening, the veil was lifted and Danielle Smith’s interest in genuinely pursuing initial steps toward separation were revealed.
“(They) demonstrate that her view is actually that which is aligned with these fringe separatist wannabes like folks who drafted the Free Alberta Strategy.
“Those comments are utterly chaos-inducing.”
Free Alberta Strategy was a 2021 policy paper drafted in part by Smith’s current top adviser Rob Anderson.
The authors of the paper argue that federal laws, policies and overreach are mortally wounding Alberta's development.
They urge a two-track strategy to assert greater autonomy for Alberta within Confederation, while simultaneously laying the policy and administrative groundwork to transition Alberta to separation and sovereignty should negotiations fail.
The strategy was the genesis for Smith’s controversial sovereignty bill that stipulates the Alberta legislature, rather than the courts, can pass judgment on what is constitutional when it comes to provincial jurisdiction.
The bill also grants cabinet the power to direct municipalities, city police forces, health regions and schools to resist implementing federal laws.
During question period, Smith rejected accusations the bill is a separatist Trojan Horse, noting its intent is contained in the title.
“The name of the bill is Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act,” said Smith.
“The (act) has nothing to do with leaving the country. It has everything to do with resetting the relationship (with the federal government).”
Political scientist Jared Wesley said it appears constitutional chaos and baiting the federal government are the actual aims.
“When you start to deny the legitimacy of the federal government, that is part of the worrying trend that ties all of this to the convoy movement and the separatists,” said Wesley, with the University of Alberta.
“Albertans need to know those comments are inappropriate and misleading at best and sparking a national unity crisis at worst. Sooner or later, someone’s going to believe her.”
Wesley added that there is a sentiment among a small group of people in Alberta, including the premier, who "are just tired of losing and don’t want to play the game anymore," he said.
“The sad thing is that that game is democracy and the rule book is the Constitution, and they’re just ignoring all of it now."
Political scientist Duane Bratt said Smith was not describing Canadian federalism.
“She is confusing the European Union with Canada,” said Bratt, with Mount Royal University in Calgary. “Canada is not made up of sovereign provinces. We share sovereignty between orders of government.”
Political scientist Lori William, also with Mount Royal University, said the comment “betrays a profound lack of understanding of Canada, of federalism, of what powers belong to the federal and provincial governments.”
During question period, Smith waved away Opposition demands that she refer the bill to Alberta’s Court of Appeal to determine if it is onside with the Constitution.
Smith told the house that Justice Minister Tyler Shandro, a lawyer, wrote the bill and that the government received independent advice from constitutional lawyers to ensure it was not offside.
“The constitutionality of this bill is not in question,” Smith said.
The bill was introduced by Smith a week ago as centrepiece legislation to pursue a more confrontational approach with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government on a range of issues deemed to be overreach in provincial areas of responsibility.
It was a short, brutish ride for the bill.
Smith’s government, due to a public outcry, had to bring in an amendment just days after introducing the bill to reverse a provision that gave it ongoing emergency-type powers to unilaterally rewrite laws while bypassing the legislature.
Alberta’s First Nations chiefs have condemned the bill as trampling their treaty rights and Smith’s Indigenous relations minister has said more consultation should have been done.
Smith told the house she met with Indigenous leaders just hours earlier to discuss concerns and shared goals. She rejected the assertion the bill doesn’t respect treaty rights.
“There is no impact on treaty and First Nations’ rights. That’s the truth,” she said.
Law professor Martin Olszynski said the bill remains problematic because it must be clear the courts have the final say on interpreting the Constitution in order to stabilize the checks and balances of a democratic system.
He said Smith’s bill threatens that, perhaps putting judges in the awkward position of having to decide whether they are the ones to make those decisions.
“Can that judge exercise their judicial function without being affected by that very politicized context?” said Olszynski, with the University of Calgary.
“It essentially politicizes the judicial process.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 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.
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.
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.
A paramedic signing off for duty for the last time got choked up and teary-eyed during his final radio call to colleagues.
Will we see six more weeks of winter, or an early spring? Here’s what some of the groundhogs (and one human) have predicted so far, from coast-to-coast.
A former 'Dances With Wolves' actor accused of sexually abusing Indigenous girls and leading a cult must remain held without bail until his next court hearing, a judge ordered Thursday morning.
A city staffer in Chestermere is now facing a formal charge of assault after police were made aware of an incident while she was working at city hall last month.
A court has seen video of a Calgary pastor encouraging truckers to keep blocking the Canada-U.S. border to protest COVID-19 restrictions because the world was watching.
Judy Preete is the custodian at Indus School, just east of Calgary and is also one of 12 finalists from schools all over Canada and the United States for the annual Custodians Are Key competition hosted by Tennant Company.
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.
Saskatoon Fire Department (SFD) had residents of a home evacuate after crews responded to reports of a possible house fire around 2:45 p.m. Thursday.
Paramedic logs from 2022 are highlighting some of the pressures Regina EMS workers have been facing for months including one instance where a patient died following offload delays at the hospital, the documents indicate.
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.
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.
An outage experienced by Air Canada impacted operations at Toronto Pearson International Airport Thursday afternoon.
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.
The discovery of major cracks on the Île-aux-Tourtes bridge is causing trouble for off-island commuters, with traffic down from three to two lanes in each direction. According to Transport Quebec, it's difficult to say when conditions on the bridge will return to normal.
EXTREME COLD WARNING
EXTREME COLD WARNING | Here's when frigid temperatures will arrive 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.
'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.
Waterloo regional 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.
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.
RCMP have arrested a 17-year-old male from Moose Lake in connection to a double homicide in The Pas last month.
A Manitoba judge is being asked to decide whether Premier Heather Stefanson violated conflict of interest rules, as alleged by the leader of Manitoba's Liberal Party.
More than six years after flames tore through an apartment building in White Rock, and more than 18 months after police announced they had made arrests in the case, charges have now been laid against a Surrey man, Mounties announced Thursday.
A crash on the Coquihalla Highway involving two commercial vehicles has left one person dead and another injured.
'He’s the Downtown Eastside newspaper': Community push for City of Vancouver to recognize street artist
Community members on the Downtown Eastside want the City of Vancouver to recognize Smokey Devil, a well-known street artist .
Hazmat teams were called to the BC Cancer Agency building in Victoria on Thursday due to reports of a "noxious odour" in the building.
Two men from Langford, B.C., have been arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking after officers executed search warrants in the Greater Victoria area.
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.