Now it is clear.
The Alberta Sovereignty within a United Canada Act was a Trojan horse, one carrying a frightening plan to give the provincial government unbridled powers that strike at the heart of our democratic ideals.
It seems like something conjured up by those running the worst kind of banana republic.
It shouldn’t take long for those living in Alberta to fully understand what is happening to their province. It is now being led by someone who did not seek a mandate from all of its citizens, but rather landed in her position thanks to a minuscule subsegment of the population who elected her leader of the United Conservative Party.
And yet Premier Danielle Smith – without any true mandate – is attempting to bring in arguably the most radical piece of legislation the province has ever seen.
Ms. Smith had said months ago that her first bit of business as Premier would be to introduce a so-called sovereignty act, which would give her government the power to ignore federal laws deemed not to be in the province’s best interests.
At the time, many of her leadership rivals and members of the UCP caucus called her proposal dangerous – former premier Jason Kenney described it as a “full-frontal attack on the rule of law” – and critics said it would hurt Alberta’s reputation both domestically and abroad.
No one could have imagined that Ms. Smith would go even further when she crafted the actual legislation. The act would give cabinet the authority to pass laws without the consent of the legislature. Think about this: Cabinet will have the ability to force provincial entities to ignore federal laws that the government doesn’t like, for whatever reason.
It’s unclear what would happen to anyone who decides not to go along with the idea of breaking federal law. It’s possible that the Alberta government could one day tell school boards, universities, police forces and a host of other provincial organizations that they must disobey federal law.
This is the provincial equivalent of the old federal War Measures Act, except it’s not being used in times of war – it’s going to be used to protest against Ottawa-imposed edicts around fertilizer use and oil-industry carbon emissions.
Can anyone imagine what the reaction would be in Alberta if Justin Trudeau attempted to bring in similar legislation? I mean, the entire country would lose its mind, but the loudest voices complaining about the contemptuous, anti-democratic nature of this theoretical legislation would be from Alberta.
Smart people can see through Ms. Smith’s antics here. She is attempting to cause a huge row with Mr. Trudeau that she thinks will benefit her ahead of a spring election, because resentment of Ottawa is popular in the province. Ultimately, this bill is an odious document that is solely intended to advantage her UCP government and party politically. The Prime Minister would be wise not to bite, and wait until this government is thrown out of office in May.
It would also be wise for any business thinking about setting up shop in the province to hold off until the result of that election is known. Because if Ms. Smith’s government is returned to power, it will be chaos. The constitutional crisis she is attempting to spark will become fully engulfed in flames. The rest of the country will not look kindly upon a provincial neighbour attempting to incite this kind of discord and disunity.
Alberta could soon find itself very, very alone.
Of course, there is hope that some of those in Ms. Smith’s cabinet and in the UCP caucus might find a backbone and stand up against this lunacy. I’m not sure how someone like Finance Minister Travis Toews, for instance, can look himself in the mirror. When Ms. Smith first broached the idea of a sovereignty act in the leadership race, he said it was “not only economically naive, it is politically dangerous.” The bill Ms. Smith ended up introducing is far, far worse. And yet, from Mr. Toews: Crickets.
The law would also give cabinet extraordinary powers at the expense of the rest of caucus – precisely the type of top-down leadership that got Mr. Kenney in trouble.
Mr. Kenney announced his resignation as an MLA on the same day the Premier announced her bill. In doing so, he took a not-so-veiled shot at Ms. Smith’s gambit, saying he despaired that democratic life was veering toward a polarization that undermines “our bedrock institutions and principles.”
He’s certainly right to be concerned, but it’s a bit rich coming from him. While in office, no one tried to sow division with Ottawa more than he did. Ms. Smith is simply going the extra step.
This week marks one of the darkest chapters in Alberta history – and the province’s reputation and prosperity is now at stake.