Smith tables controversial sovereignty act, which is 'likely' to survive in court
Danielle Smith introduced the Sovereignty within a United Canada Act in the legislature Tuesday while trying to reassure Albertans that it has nothing to do with leaving the country.
Government documents say it's not certain the legislation will survive a court challenge but it's "likely" that it will.
"A long and painful history of mistreatment and constitutional overreach from Ottawa has for decades caused tremendous frustration for Albertans," Smith told reporters.
"In response, we're finally telling the federal government: 'No more.' It's time to stand up for Alberta."
Smith promised a "sovereignty act" during her run for United Conservative Party leader. She won that race on Oct. 6 with roughly 54 per cent of votes on the sixth ballot. She was sworn in as premier Oct. 11.
During a televised address last week, Smith revealed that the "within a United Canada" part had been added.
Meant to be a "constitutional shield to protect Albertans from federal overreach," the act is supposed to defend property rights, natural resources, agriculture, firearms, economic regulation, healthcare delivery, education and social programs, according to the government.
- Alberta not proceeding with Premier Smith's bill to protect COVID-19 unvaccinated
- Alberta legislature to resume sitting Tuesday: Here's what you need to know
"It's intended to be fully democratic and transparent. Each proposed use of the act will require a special motion to be passed in the legislative assembly, which will be subject to open discussion, examination and review," Smith said.
The premier said the federal government can take Alberta to court if it doesn't like the UCP government's sovereignty positions, rather than the province having to initiate legal action.
HOW WOULD IT WORK?
The details of the proposed bill, and thus the effect it could have on Alberta and Canada, have been speculated on for weeks. The province released a fact sheet Tuesday providing an initial outline on how it would work.
If passed, the act would allow any cabinet minister, including the premier, to identify federal initiatives and legislation that are deemed unconstitutional or "harmful to Albertans" and introduce a motion in the legislature to invoke it.
Those motions could also include suggestions for how to fight back against Ottawa's initiatives.
MLAs would then debate and vote on the resolution in the legislature. A majority approval would be needed and government MLAs, the premier says, would be free to vote according to their conscience.
If a motion passes, cabinet ministers would then be authorized to ignore or "push back" against federal policies and direct provincial entities like health authorities, school boards, municipalities or local police to not enforce them.
The government says Alberta will continue to respect court rulings, something that was not clear when Smith initially proposed a sovereignty act.
"Nothing in this bill involves separation, nor does it provide a means to accomplish such ends. Rather it is a way for this great province to hold the federal government accountable to the constitutional principles that serve as the very foundation of our country's governance," Smith said.
OPPOSITION TO THE ACT
Smith's sovereignty act idea was immediately controversial in Alberta, including within the government caucus.
Several government MLAs spoke out against the act during the UCP leadership race and former leader and premier Jason Kenney called it "cockamamie" and "the Alberta suicide act" during his final days in office.
Kenney and others were concerned that the act would scare off business and jobs by making Alberta an unstable market to invest in.
But Smith's government argues that won't happen and that federal "intrusion" in Alberta has caused "hundreds of billions of dollars to flee Alberta" over the past decade, however no accounting of that was provided.
Kenney resigned as MLA for Calgary-Lougheed on Tuesday.
The bill has also been called "dangerous and damaging" by Chiefs from Treaty 6, 7 and 8, who vowed to fight the act during a joint press conference on Nov.18.
- Alberta treaty chiefs unite against United Conservatives' proposed sovereignty act
- Alberta sovereignty act, protection for the unvaccinated part of Shandro's mandate
“We take offence to Danielle Smith's forthcoming sovereignty act and outright reject it,” said Arthur Noskey, Grand Chief of Treaty 8, who added there had been no consultation with First Nations leaders.
Noskey renewed his objections in a Tuesday news release.
"The Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act is just another unlawful attempt to continue the province’s deliberate abuse and exploitation of our peoples, lands, territories, and resources," the Grand Chief stated.
Smith has since promised to meet with the Chiefs in person to assure them that the act will not impact their treaty rights.
The Opposition NDP voted against Smith's sovereignty bill, in part out of concern that the act would give cabinet "new powers to unilaterally bypass the democratic will of the legislature" by amending laws after an initial motion has passed. Smith denies this is what the legislation intends.
“Danielle Smith was elected by one per cent of the Alberta voters and now she wants to give herself dictatorial powers,” said deputy leader Sarah Hoffman.
“Danielle Smith and the UCP are focused on creating more chaos, costs and conflict with her sovereignty act.”
WHAT TRUDEAU, MINISTERS ARE SAYING ABOUT IT
Asked about the incoming act on his way into question period on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he's "just going to stay focused on the things that matter to Albertans."
"Whether it's affordability, whether it's creating jobs, whether it's working constructively to fight climate change and grow a better future. That's what Albertans are focused on. That's what I'm going to stay focused on," the prime minister said.
Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said he'd wait until he'd read the legislation before commenting but that once it was tabled he'd "obviously look carefully," because some of what was floated around the bill during the leadership race "may or may not involve federal jurisdiction."
"We’re not running around looking for fire alarms and looking for squabbles and hassles. As I say, we have on a number of fronts a positive relationship with the government of Alberta. The Alberta Legislature has sovereign constitutional jurisdiction within their own division of powers, so if they propose to legislate things that are properly within the jurisdiction of the Alberta legislature, the people of Alberta and the members of that legislature are responsible for those decisions," LeBlanc said.
"We’ll do the same thing in the Parliament of Canada, but we’re not going to get distracted from working on positive things with all the provincial governments, and they can decide what legislation they want to table in their legislatures at whatever time they want."
- Federal Liberal cabinet minister from Alberta concerned with proposed sovereignty act
- Alberta lieutenant-governor says not a done deal she'll OK proposed sovereignty act
Alberta-based Minister of Tourism and Associate Finance Minister Randy Boissonnault told reporters that while he too wants to read the bill for himself, he's "deeply concerned by what is the government of Alberta’s attack on Canadian unity."
Describing Alberta's move as trying to "cherry pick" which laws apply to them, Boissonnault said Albertans are "not talking to me about sovereignty."
"They were talking to me about jobs, about indexing the benefits that they get. They were talking about the prime minister’s good performance at the inquiries, and quite frankly, they were talking about him being on Drag Race Canada… So [the] sovereignty act is not on the minds of Albertans," he said.
With files from CTV News' Rachel Aiello and The Canadian Press
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Big tech companies that offer online streaming services could soon be required to contribute to Canadian content as a controversial Liberal bill gets one step closer to becoming law.
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 Russian woman says she has been denied consular services by her country's embassy in Canada over claims her Facebook activity poses a security threat.
opinion | How much rent can you afford?
Many Canadians have continued to see an increase in their rental rates in 2023. In an column on CTVNews.ca, personal finance contributor Christopher Liew explains how to calculate how much rent you can afford.
W5 Investigates | Lebanese-Canadian family of 3-year-old killed in Beirut blast still searching for accountability, answers
More than two years after downtown Beirut was levelled by an explosion, a Lebanese-Canadian family of a 3-year-old girl killed in the blast is still searching for answers. Watch W5's documentary 'The Explosion' on CTV at 7 p.m.
Nearly 6 in 10 public transit users say they feel less safe commuting after string of violent attacks
After a string of violent attacks on public transit in Toronto and other cities, a new survey has found that nearly six in 10 public transit users in Canada say they feel less safe or somewhat less safe while commuting.
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.
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.
After years of decline, demand for Calgary's downtown commercial real estate is showing signs of returning to life.
A warm weekend ahead for Calgary in the five-day forecast.
A new survey conducted by Research Co. reveals that more people in Western Canada now support a change in the federal government compared to a similar poll from June.
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.
The provincial government is looking for ways to ease the workload for Saskatchewan doctors. It is proposing that pharmacists, nurse practitioners, and paramedics play a greater role in treating patients.
One of Saskatchewan’s oldest hockey rinks has garnered national attention for its unique features and unusual design.
Here is a list of school closures and cancellations for Friday, February 3, 2023.
An extreme cold warning has been issued across the region, with some saying the arctic air could break record-low temperatures in the Maritimes.
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.
Those heading outside this morning are being advised to bundle up as the Greater Toronto Area and nearly all of Ontario experience a bout of bone-chilling cold.
About 71 per cent of Ontarians feel less or somewhat less safe using public transportation than they did a year ago, a new survey suggests.
'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.
Hydro-Québec is asking its customers to take a few steps to reduce electricity consumption in Quebec as a period of intense cold weather began Thursday night in most regions. The utility predicts that on Friday and Saturday, electricity demand could exceed the historical peak consumption, which was about 40,500 megawatts (MW) in January 2022.
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.
Construction of the new overhead ramp from Highway 440 westbound to Highway 15 northbound in Laval will begin next Monday and will take three years. The ramp repair is part of the second phase of the project to make the interchange safer and improve mobility. A redevelopment of the exit leading from Highway 440 westbound to Industriel Boulevard is also planned.
EXTREME COLD WARNING
EXTREME COLD WARNING | Deep freeze hits Ottawa, wind chill drops below -40
Ottawa and eastern Ontario residents woke up to dangerously cold temperatures on Friday, with the wind chill making it feel colder than -40.
NEW THIS MORNING
NEW THIS MORNING | Winterlude returns to Ottawa and Gatineau
Winterlude kicks off in Ottawa and Gatineau today, as the national capital region's winter festival returns with in-person activities for the first time in three years.
NEW THIS MORNING
NEW THIS MORNING | What's happening in Ottawa this weekend: Feb. 3-5
CTVNewsOttawa.ca looks at things to do in Ottawa, eastern Ontario and western Quebec during the first weekend of February.
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.
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.
An argument between two young children playing outside together escalated to violence when a parent got involved, a North Bay mom says.
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.
A mobile home owner could potentially be out thousands of dollars after learning her home might not be insurable.
RCMP have arrested a 17-year-old male from Moose Lake in connection to a double homicide in The Pas last month.
CTV News has learned that four of five RCMP officers facing charges in the death of an Indigenous man during an arrest in Prince George are still on active duty.
A man who was gunned down outside of his business in South Vancouver never got the chance to meet his daughter, a court heard as his killer was sentenced.
A nationwide billboard campaign that appears to promote grunge-chic clothing for street youth is causing confusion and igniting debate.
A teenager from Nanaimo is being hailed as a hero by his family after a suspect wielding a knife entered their business and the boy scared them off using a baseball bat.
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.