Cowed by the torrent of anger and associated shame her landmark piece of legislation has incited in her province, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is preparing to back down on a particularly egregious aspect of it.
Ms. Smith spent the weekend saying she will fix a section of the Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act that confers unprecedented powers to cabinet to unilaterally make laws outside of the legislature. By Monday, it was announced that the government would also amend the part of the act that suggested it would ignore federal laws deemed to be harmful in any way to the province.
Nothing has been said about the other equally deplorable section of the bill, which would give her government the power to decide what federal laws are constitutional or not.
Make no mistake, the Alberta government has been hijacked by the “freedom convoy” folks. Ms. Smith and her acolytes in the United Conservative Party want to fundamentally change the way Canada works. They want the federal government to forfeit any serious role over areas such as climate change and health care, leaving those matters to the provinces.
What we are witnessing at the moment is a right-wing government trying to cause havoc and assert rights it doesn’t have all in the name of bullying a Liberal government in Ottawa that it finds ideologically abhorrent.
The Alberta Premier does not believe Ottawa has the right or authority to impose measures related to climate change on her province. There is no other way to read her actions. She thinks her province is best able to do this. She doesn’t think Ottawa has the right to enforce gun control laws either. She doesn’t think there should be any strings attached to any money Ottawa hands out for things such as child or health care.
In the Premier’s eyes, Ottawa is merely a tax collector that should be dividing those funds up equally among the provinces. And beyond that, they shouldn’t play much of a role except around foreign policy and national defence. The provinces are the ones that run Canada, not the other way around.
Her so-called sovereignty act doesn’t even respect the powers and rights of the Supreme Court of Canada. One must ask, if you don’t agree with the constitutional structure of this country, why stay in it at all?
In an interview with the CBC’s David Cochrane on the weekend, Ms. Smith named the collapse of several resource projects as examples of how the federal government continually fails her province. She didn’t mention that the same Liberal government she assails at every opportunity nationalized the Trans Mountain pipeline to build an expansion, one B.C. didn’t want. Instead, she chose to focus on Energy East, and Teck Frontier and Keystone XL as projects that all died because, she insists, the Liberals didn’t fight hard enough for them.
Yeah, Ottawa should have ignited a huge trade war with the Biden administration over Keystone. Like that would have been in our country’s national interests. And as if abandoning all environmental principles to make proponents of Energy East smile would have been sound national leadership. No, Ms. Smith believes Ottawa should be shoving pipelines down the throats of every province in the country in the name of helping Alberta, skyrocketing CO2 emissions be damned.
Ms. Smith has said that she hopes she never has to use the powers invested in her sovereignty act, and yet one of the first things she did was send her ministers scurrying off to look for examples of federal overreach that intrude on provincial jurisdiction in any way.
It really is difficult to listen to the Premier talk about her province and Ottawa because there is so much revisionist history. “Over the last seven years, every time we’ve tried to start a new relationship with Ottawa we’ve had the door slammed in our face,” she told the CBC.
I guess this period would include the Jason Kenney epoch, which was primarily spent demonizing Ottawa and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Mr. Kenney fought the federal government at every turn, no matter how obscure the grounds. He set a new relationship with Ottawa all right, making it a broken one.
No one in charge in Alberta at the moment has any interest in forming a reasonable relationship with Ottawa because that would upset the “freedom convoy” and Make America Great Again folks, largely based in Alberta, who believe the federal government is encroaching on too many aspects of their lives.
Ms. Smith is with them. Alberta hasn’t had leadership like this in several decades, if ever. These are nervous times for the province, for the country as well.