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
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.
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 17-year-old boy 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.
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.