Skip to main content

Smith takes aim at Kenney's sovereignty act comments, asks premier to 'respect' leadership contest

Jason Kenney and United Conservative Party leadership hopeful Danielle Smith traded words about her proposed sovereignty act this weekend, with Smith saying the premier should not interfere in the contest.

On Saturday, Kenney called the proposed act "nuts" on his weekly radio show, adding that the legislature passing the act would make the province a "laughingstock."

"The proposal is for Alberta, basically, to ignore and violate the constitution in a way that is unprecedented in Canadian history," Kenney said. "To not enforce the laws of the land, including federal laws, which include the Criminal Code, which is nuts."

Smith, the former Wildrose leader, issued a statement Sunday taking aim at the premier's comments about the act, saying they were "ill-informed" and "disrespectful" toward a "growing majority" of party members that support it.

"If elected to replace him as Leader and Premier, I will work closely and collaboratively with our entire UCP caucus to ensure the Sovereignty Act is drafted, passed, and implemented in accordance with sound constitutional language and principles," Smith added.

In the last few days, a growing number of UCP caucus and cabinet members changed their pledges of support toward Smith, including Labour Minister Kaycee Madu and Travis Toews supporter Pat Rehn. Friday marked the last day party memberships could be bought ahead of the leadership race voting period.

During the radio show, the premier said he wouldn't comment when asked about the shifting allegiances toward Smith.

Later, a caller on the show hoped to get the premier's thoughts on the rhetoric and proposed policy ideas of the campaign.

"I'm just not going to delve into that," Kenney said. "It's not my job."

"I'm not going to get into being the colour commentator on the leadership election."

Once a question on Smith's proposed sovereignty act was posed, Kenney said he would answer it because it was a proposal made "long before there was a leadership election."

He referred to his former principal secretary Howard Anglin's "thoughtful analysis" of the policy, which says the act would be an "economic disaster" as anticipated regulatory uncertainty would push business outside the province.

"(Anglin) refers to it, not as the Alberta Sovereignty Act, but as the Alberta Suicide Act," Kenney said. "There is no doubt in my mind that if the legislature were to pass such a flagrantly unlawful bill, that the lieutenant-governor would not grant it Royal Assent, so it would never become law."

"If a lieutenant-governor were, in the unthinkable circumstance, to grant it Royal Assent, it would immediately be struck down by the courts," the premier added.

"We should be talking about real practical ways to fight unfair Ottawa policies, fight for a stronger Alberta."

A number of political scientists and legal scholars have also questioned the sovereignty act, labelling it as "fundamentally unlawful" and would set Canada's constitutional order on a "dangerous course."

Smith said that the premier and "other 'experts'" should wait to judge the act until they could read it first. In a recent campaign video, Smith says that if Ottawa doesn't "invade our territory," the province would never need to invoke the sovereignty act.

"Albertans are tired of watching Justin Trudeau and Ottawa continuously run over the rights and freedoms of Albertans and they want a leader who will stand and defend our Province without apology," she said. "That is exactly the leader I intend to be.

"I would also urge the Premier to focus on being a voice for Party unity and to respect our Party's democratic leadership process that allows members to select our Leader in an open and transparent selection process without interference from the acting Premier and Leader of the Party," Smith added.

When Kenney first announced his resignation as UCP leader in May, he said he would remain as premier until the party chose a new leader.

On Saturday, Kenney told listeners of the radio show that he was "open" to staying on as Calgary-Lougheed MLA "for at least a period of time" after the leadership result is announced in October.

"I don't want to force a byelection for sure," he said. "But part of that will be up to the next leader."

With a file from The Canadian Press Top Stories

Stay Connected