Alberta premier says changes coming to sovereignty bill
The Alberta government is crafting changes to be debated next week to reverse the section of a bill that gives cabinet unfettered power to rewrite laws behind closed doors without legislature approval, the province's premier said Saturday.
Danielle Smith told her Corus radio talk show that her sovereignty bill was never supposed to give cabinet such sweeping authority, adding her government wants to make it clear in law that this is not the case.
“You never get things 100 per cent right all the time,” Smith told her radio listeners.
“I think there’s some confusion on that, so we’re working on some amendments to make it clear.”
The bill, introduced Tuesday by Smith as the signature legislation of her new administration, has faced widespread condemnation for granting her and her cabinet sweeping authority to redress any federal policy, law or program it deems harmful to Alberta.
Critics say such power exercised in secret without legislature oversight is a threat to the checks and balances that underpin a healthy democracy.
For days after Smith introduced the bill, she and her cabinet members rejected accusations, including from legal and constitutional scholars, that the bill granted unchecked power.
On Thursday afternoon in the legislature, Smith accused the Opposition NDP of fearmongering “that somehow this act gives power to cabinet to unilaterally alter legislation behind closed doors despite the fact that it does not.”
But Smith was admitting to problems by Friday afternoon, telling CBC News Network amendments may be needed. By Saturday morning, she acknowledged changes were on the way.
“There is some concern right now that (the bill) is written in a way that suggests that we (cabinet) would be able to unilaterally change statutes -- and we’re not able to do that,” she told her radio show.
"If there are any changes to statutes (under the bill), it does have to come back to the legislature, so we’re working on making sure that that gets clarified."
Smith said those matters would be debated and addressed next week, adding that she's taking what she described as a "fair-minded" approach.
“If we caused some confusion by some awkward wording, then let’s clean it up and then be able to talk about the bigger issues,” she said.
Political scientist Duane Bratt said it’s a positive step for the bill to be amended to remove the sweeping powers to cabinet.
But Bratt said the change is not a tweak, the bill has become a confusing mess, Smith did not seem to understand the legislation she was introducing, and the entire affair raises larger questions about Smith’s competence in the top job.
“How did this get in the bill in the first place?” said Bratt, who teaches at Calgary's Mount Royal University.
“Wouldn’t they have read it? Wouldn’t they have noticed this? This is damaging to have to backtrack. These are major reversals on her signature piece of legislation. (No matter) whoever wrote it, at the end of the day her name is attached to it. She’s the one who introduced the bill. She has to wear this.”
The bill, now in second reading, has also triggered concerns over the provision that grants cabinet the power to order provincially legislated or funded entities to reject federal laws if cabinet deems Ottawa is causing harm.
Those entities include municipalities, police forces, health regions, post-secondary institutions and school boards.
During a Friday interview on CBC News Network, Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said the provision directing municipalities to rebuff federal laws is “a dangerous scenario” for municipalities that rely on both federal and provincial funding.
“If they direct us in a manner — let’s use an example — that says you can’t accept any federal funding directly, what does that do to our affordable housing strategy?” said Gondek.
“No matter how you slice this, it’s going to be really tough for municipalities to actually govern and serve their people.”
Gondek criticized Smith’s United Conservative Party caucus for not challenging the bill, particularly the four cabinet ministers who raised the alarm on Smith’s sovereignty bill in the leadership race that put Smith in the premier’s chair only to now support it.
“The weakness being demonstrated by MLAs right now who know this act is not good is going to cost us dearly if they don’t say, ‘We have to stop this,’” said Gondek.
Indigenous leaders have criticized the bill as heavy-handed trampling on treaty rights.
Business groups, including the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, warn the legal uncertainty surrounding the bill is not good for investment.
“While we’re trying to strengthen our economy, this provincial government has made us look incredibly incompetent," she said. “I would say to any investors that are out there and anyone that’s listening out east, this provincial government is not reflective of who we are as municipalities.”
The idea for the sovereignty bill was first pitched by Smith in June.
She characterized 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.
Under the bill, cabinet would decide when Ottawa is interfering in Alberta's 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 by majority vote, that is where its involvement ends and cabinet takes over. Cabinet could use the bill's extraordinary powers to rewrite legislation and direct provincial entities to ignore federal laws based on what cabinet deems "necessary or advisable."
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.
Smith has been unclear on how she will use the bill, toggling in recent days between saying it is a last resort and saying she hopes to begin using it in the spring.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2022.
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
The suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that was found floating over sensitive military sites in the western United States had been tracked by Canada's government since last weekend as it passed through Canadian airspace, sources tell CTV News.
The oldest preserved vertebrate brain has been found in a 319-million-year-old fossilized fish skull that was removed from an English coal mine over a century ago.
It took 40 years, but former NHL player and coach Ted Nolan is now one of eight Indigenous ex-NHL-ers being honoured hockey trading cards as a part of Upper Deck's First Peoples Rookie Card series.
A B.C. man who was mistaken for the target in a police takedown and shot by an officer in 2013 has had his lawsuit alleging negligence dismissed.
Three bodies found in a vacant Detroit-area apartment building have been identified as those of three aspiring rappers who went missing nearly two weeks ago, police said Friday.
For much of disgraced South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh's double murder trial, witnesses have talked about a generous and loving man -- but prosecutors want jurors to know that same man stole over US$4 million from his housekeeper's relatives after she died at work, and killed his wife and son to cover up his crimes.
A senior aide to Japan's prime minister is being dismissed after making discriminatory remarks about LGBTQ2S+ people.
A jury on Friday decided Elon Musk didn't deceive investors with his 2018 tweets about electric automaker Tesla.
A new research from a citizen science program suggests that stars are disappearing before our eyes at an 'astonishing rate.'
Alberta's high court is being asked to overturn a review board decision relating to the stabbing deaths of five young people at a Calgary house party on the grounds the former provincial justice minister interfered.
Police are investigating a series of tire slashing incidents in northeast Calgary.
Thousands of Alberta lawyers are expected to take part in an online debate Monday morning over the issue of mandatory Indigenous history training.
BHP is moving forward with its plans to build the world's largest potash mine.
After months of driving around the city with an advertisement for a kidney donor on her bright red car, Debbie Onishenko will soon be able to rip off the decals as her search has ended.
The community of Dundurn is rallying behind a firefighter who lost her home in a fire.
Saskatchewan is reacting to the removal of controversial amendment G4 to Bill C-21 by the federal Liberals, which banned certain semi-automatic rifles and shotguns.
Residents in Regina's North Central community are voicing safety concerns after a water main break resulted in icy sidewalk and road conditions.
A local non-profit is hoping a new office space can help reconnect Indigenous youth to their culture.
Temperatures are plummeting across the Maritimes as a blast of Arctic air moves into the region.
A seafood processing plant in Portage, N.B., has been completely destroyed following a major fire Friday afternoon.
Atlantic Lottery says it has been contacted by a player who believes they have the winning ticket to this week's $31 million Lotto Max Draw.
Speed cameras clocked a car driving 70 km/h over the limit. Here's how the owner fought the ticket and won
After being charged with speeding by a city-operated photo radar device, a Toronto family was able to successfully fight the charge in court largely due to one small detail.
The death of a longtime CBC journalist who was shoved to the ground in Toronto has now been classified as a homicide and police have issued an arrest warrant for a suspect in the case.
Police are investigating a stabbing in downtown Toronto Friday night.
The ongoing cold snap has Quebecers cranking up the heat in their homes, which Hydro-Quebe says has caused a record peak in electricity demand. In a Tweet Friday, the hydroelectricity supplier said that around 5:30 p.m., demand across the province reached 42,700 megawatts.
A reclusive billionaire who headed a Montreal tech company is stepping down one day after Radio-Canada/CBC published a report that alleged he paid teenage girls for sex for more than a decade.
The Montreal fire department is advising people to avoid Sherbrooke Street East at Carignan Avenue in the Longue Pointe neighbourhood as a five-alarm fire is burning.
A federal government department has fired 49 employees who received the Canada Emergency Response Benefit while they were employed.
CTVNewsOttawa.ca looks at the cancellations and closures in the Ottawa area due to the extreme cold temperatures.
EXTREME COLD WARNING
EXTREME COLD WARNING | Deep freeze hits Ottawa, wind chill drops below -40
Extreme cold temperatures will continue to grip Ottawa and eastern Ontario Friday night and Saturday morning, with the wind chill making it feel colder than -40.
Police say they’ve arrested three people and one person was taken to hospital following an armed robbery at Conestoga Mall on Thursday.
Ontario Provincial Police are once again reminding drivers to clear the snow and ice off of their vehicles before they head out onto the road.
Waterloo regional police issued a robbery warning Thursday evening after they said two convenience stores and a restaurant in Kitchener were robbed within a 30 minute span.
Canada's newest millionaire, an 18-year-old university freshman from northern Ontario, has achieved a lot of firsts with a recent lottery win. Here is her story.
Ontario Provincial Police have closed a portion of Highway 400 north of Toronto following multiple collisions due to whiteout conditions.
An investigation that lasted almost two years has resulted in moose hunting violation convictions for six people and a lodge in Red Lake in northwestern Ontario.
Winnipeg police released a new image of a 31-year-old woman who has been missing since early last year on Friday in the hope it may generate new information on her whereabouts.
A fire destroyed a popular paint and hobby shop in Winkler Thursday afternoon with black smoke prompting Winkler police to close off a stretch of Highway 32 for more than an hour.
Manitoba has expanded the types of identification acceptable for use to purchase liquor, cannabis and lottery tickets in the province.
The mayors of Port Coquitlam and Port Moody want Nav Canada — the organization that creates flight paths for airports across the country — to pause its plans for a new YVR arrivals route that will direct many large airplanes over their communities.
'Just absolute scum of the earth': Family upset after senior with dementia defrauded by someone posing as care worker
Seventy-nine-year-old William Herbert thought the woman coming to see him was a nurse who needed to do bloodwork. But instead of helping him, it’s alleged she stole from him.
Homicide investigators are looking into whether a vehicle fire in Surrey on Thursday morning is connected to the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old boy in Burnaby hours later.
An emergency room doctor on Vancouver Island is calling on the leadership of the health authority to resign, saying harassment by Island Health officials is prompting doctors to abandon the region amid a critical shortage of health-care workers.
A local state of emergency that was issued in Campbell River, B.C., following a landslide in mid-January has been lifted, the city announced Friday.
A man accused of fatally stabbing another man outside a busy mall in Nanaimo, B.C., has been charged with second-degree murder, according to the Nanaimo RCMP.