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Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, right, speaks during a fireside chat with True North journalist Andrew Lawton during the Canada Strong and Free Network event in Ottawa, on Friday, April 12, 2024.Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press

Danielle Smith and Justin Trudeau clashed Friday over Ottawa’s plan to override unco-operative provinces and deal exclusively with municipalities on the housing crisis, with the Alberta Premier saying the Prime Minister should instead focus on national priorities.

Ms. Smith is critical of federal plans to negotiate directly with municipalities for a share of a new multibillion-dollar fund to pay for infrastructure necessary to build more housing. She was in Ottawa for a conference of the Canada Strong and Free Network, formerly the Manning Centre.

Soon after the Premier’s comments, Mr. Trudeau unveiled a sweeping federal plan in Vaughan, north of Toronto, to build 3.87 million new homes in Canada by 2031.

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Ms. Smith said her government’s response to what she calls federal overreach is proposed legislation that would stop municipalities from bypassing the province in pursuit of Ottawa’s funding.

Referring to the legislation, Ms. Smith told conference delegates, “You may have seen this week I introduced the stay-out-of-my-backyard bill.”

The Premier said the federal government in general, and the Prime Minister specifically, should be focusing on national priorities.

Alberta tables bill aimed at blocking funding deals between Ottawa, cities

“There is no shortage of things that the Prime Minister can do. It’s not a boring job,” Ms. Smith said.

The provincial priorities bill would require entities under Alberta’s purview, including universities, school boards, housing agencies and health authorities, to obtain the province’s consent before entering, amending, extending or renewing agreements with Ottawa.

Ms. Smith has said deals between the federal government and provincial entities that do not have Alberta’s blessing will be illegal under the proposed legislation.

Ms. Smith said it will take effect in 2025, building on the Premier’s high-profile clashes with Ottawa.

Ms. Smith came to power by promising legislation, dubbed the sovereignty act, that Alberta argues can be used to reject federal laws the province regards as beyond Ottawa’s jurisdiction. The act has not been tested in court.

The UCP also takes issue with the federal Liberals proposed green electricity regulations and Mr. Trudeau’s commitment to the consumer carbon levy.

The Premier said in Ottawa that Alberta is going to take a posture more like Quebec, describing that as, “No thank you. We don’t need your policy advice on school lunch programs, on pharmacare, on dental care. Just give us the money and trust that we will be able to deliver.”

And she told a news conference after her fireside event that it is inefficient for Ottawa to think it can make individual deals on housing with the hundreds of Alberta municipalities.

Some provinces reject $6-billion housing program announced by Trudeau ahead of federal budget

“That is the very definition of red tape,” she said. “Our provincial government has established relationships with all of those municipalities and so it just makes sense that they would work through us so we can ensure the dollars get through to the municipalities who need it.”

However, Mr. Trudeau said there is a role for Ottawa in the debate.

“We recognize that Canadians need help and support and investment and don’t so much care about, you know, whose responsibility it is, first and foremost. They just want it to get it done,” he told a news conference.

“And that’s why we are there to work hand in hand in full respect with those provinces who want to solve the problem, and ask those provinces that don’t want to solve the problem to just get out of the way.”

Mr. Trudeau noted that he was criticized months ago for saying that housing is largely a provincial responsibility.

“Over the following weeks and months, we heard from a cavalcade of premiers saying, ‘See. The federal government needs to step up more, needs to do more. It’s trying to get out of the business of housing. The federal government needs to step up and fix this housing crisis,’ " said Mr. Trudeau.

“So we are. The provinces should be careful what they wish for.”

Ms. Smith said she was hoping other provinces follow the Alberta example. “I hope to see some of the other premiers do it,” she said.

However, Caitlin Clark, a spokesperson for Ontario Premier Doug Ford, said in a statement that Ontario will not follow Alberta’s proposal to block federal funding to municipalities.

And the press secretary for Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said Alberta-style legislation is not on the province’s agenda either.

“Saskatchewan is supportive of the intent of the legislation to secure provincial engagement and respect for provincial jurisdiction, which exists in Quebec and now has been introduced in Alberta,” Julie Leggott said in a statement.

“However, Saskatchewan is focused on its current legislative agenda following the introduction of a new provincial budget last month and has not considered legislation on this front.”

With a report from Carrie Tait in Calgary

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