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
In an unusual move, the Russian Defence Ministry broadcast that one of its newest warships, the Admiral Gorshkov, had tested the strike capabilities of a hypersonic Zircon missile in a virtual drill.
The federal Liberal government is joining the Opposition Conservatives in no longer allowing its members of Parliament to expense taxpayers for home internet services.
In an exclusive interview with CTV’s Power Play, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki is praising the moves from Western countries to send tanks to Ukraine.
On Feb. 27, 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his country needed fighters, and foreigners were welcome to join the front line in the defence against Russian aggression. Some Canadians were among the first to answer the call.
Canada is sending four combat-ready battle tanks to Ukraine and will be deploying 'a number' of Canadian Armed Forces members to train Ukrainian soldiers on how to operate them.
For some people, relaxation looks like settling down with a nice glass of wine and the most graphic, disturbing tale of murder imaginable.
Retailers and tech companies use many tools to mine consumers for data they can share with third parties, but there are steps consumers can take to protect and safeguard their personal information.
Following the deaths of more than 300 children from contaminated cough syrups in several countries, Health Canada says it's been more than a decade since similar cases were identified here.
Rent prices in Canada grew at a record pace last year as the country saw the lowest vacancy rate since 2001, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said.
Calgary police have arrested one suspect and are still looking for another in connection to a December incident in a southwest parking lot that left the victim severely injured.
Whether you're interested in buying, renting or repairing, automotive experts are warning Canadians entering the vehicle market to bring extra money -- and patience.
Here's a pitch for a new one-hour crime drama set in Calgary.
A Saskatchewan mother says her 13-year-old daughter is being shamed for her past mental health challenges.
Freezing rain on Thursday morning has contributed to dangerous driving conditions in and around Saskatoon.
A new search initiative from Jim Pattison’s Hospital (JPH) is making access to ultrasound appointments easier for expectant mothers in rural parts of the province.
Regina’s new emergency shelter is set to open its doors. The facility is located in the former YMCA building downtown. Already, the 40 beds are fully booked with a waiting list.
Rising rent costs and limited options are making it challenging for Regina renters to find the right place to settle into.
A Regina police officer said he caught 11 drivers on mobile devices in three shifts.
A soggy winter storm made its way to the Maritimes Thursday morning, with Environment Canada issuing a combination of rain, snow and wind warnings for the region.
A new report shows the rental market in Nova Scotia has been hit hard with increased demand and short supply.
A jury has delivered a guilty verdict in the 2020 murder of a Yarmouth, N.S., area man.
Exclusive club in Toronto fined $35K for telling man with autism he required supervision at all times
The family of a prominent Toronto artist with autism is speaking out after one of the city’s oldest private clubs demanded he be supervised at all times while using the facilities – a decision that prompted the artist to file a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
The Toronto police will be rolling out an increased presence across the TTC following a rash of violent, and sometimes random, incidents on the city’s transit system.
New video has emerged showing the moments before a Toronto man attacked his boss using two samurai swords at a North York bakery – an incident the man has been sentenced to 17 years in prison for.
A 28-year-old son has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of his mother Wednesday morning in Montreal's Centre-Sud neighbourhood.
In 2021, 22-year-old Taylor Halperin moved BEEhind The Lens Photography into a new home: a studio on St-Charles Boulevard in Pierrefonds-Roxboro. Early Wednesday morning, her studio and several businesses next door caught fire.
Housing in Quebec is becoming increasingly expensive and increasingly difficult to find. Data from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMGC) shows the housing crisis is worsening, both in terms of rental costs and availability. Although landlord and tenant groups interpret the federal agency's data differently, both agree: it's no longer possible to ignore the situation or rely on the market to correct it.
Ottawa police and Bylaw Services are telling residents and visitors they will be taking a zero-tolerance approach to parking, noise and fireworks violations downtown this weekend, on the one-year anniversary of the 'Freedom Convoy' demonstration.
Police in Renfrew County have arrested an 18-year-old suspect after a homicide Wednesday night.
A year after the 'Freedom Convoy' protest shut down Wellington Street, a city of Ottawa committee has voted to reopen it to cars.
Two people are facing charges after a police officer was allegedly assaulted in Stratford.
An Ancaster mom is mourning the death of her 19-year-old son who died in a Brant County crash on Jan. 21.
Remediation work on the Region of Waterloo’s nuclear bunker is now complete, but what’s next for the Cold War-era building is yet to be decided.
A 36-year-old Sault Ste. Marie woman was killed after being hit by a vehicle on Highway 17 east of Bruce Mines last week, police say.
The body of a 29-year-old Sudbury nurse was recovered Wednesday night from a lake near Parry Sound after her snowmobile went through the ice, police say.
Anyone who received a single-use needle from Réseau ACCESS Network in Sudbury in the last several months is at risk of serious infection, the group announced Thursday.
The Manitoba government is issuing a second round of cheques to help people deal with inflation in a move that critics say has more to do with boosting the governing Progressive Conservatives' chances in the next election.
A small dog - likely a Pekingese cross - is on the mend at a Winnipeg animal hospital after being attacked in northern Manitoba two weeks ago, thanks in part to a new light treatment.
Some rural Manitoba school divisions are advertising substitute teaching positions where a teaching degree or certificate is not required in an attempt to address a shortfall.
A coroner's inquest into Nicole Chan's death heard testimony Thursday about the Vancouver police officer's visit to the hospital just hours before she took her own life in 2019.
'She was a nightmare': Parent, former staff member speak out on ex-principal accused of stealing $170K from East Van school
More people are coming forward after the Vancouver School Board filed a lawsuit against former principal Tricia Low, also known as Tricia Rooney.
Fourteen months after Dave Martens' chicken barns on Abbotsford's Sumas Prairie were flooded, the repairs are almost complete and he finally has birds again. Now, he's trying to keep it that way.
A Saanich, B.C., massage therapist has been banned from practising for 25 years after he secretly recorded video of female patients undressing before their appointments.
A Vancouver Island sawmill where work has been curtailed since last October will not be reopening in its current configuration, its owner announced Thursday.
The University of Victoria plans to build a mixed-use housing and commercial development on the site of its aging Ian Stewart Complex.