The Sovereignty Act Hits All The Right Notes
The Alberta Sovereignty Within A United Canada Act - the new full name for the Sovereignty Act - was introduced to the Alberta Legislature on Tuesday.
Now that we've had a short while to digest it, we're confident in saying that when it comes to protecting the interests of Alberta on the national stage, the Act is right on the money.
The Sovereignty Act, in practicality, is just a procedural bill - more or less just a framework for a free vote in the Legislature. It allows for a Cabinet Minister to introduce a motion about a "federal initiative" that the Minister believes to be unconstitutional on the basis of intruding into an area of provincial constitutional jurisdiction, or is otherwise harmful to Albertans, such as by violating Albertans' rights and freedoms under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The resolution would identify not only the "federal initiative" that is being addressed, but also specific "measures" that the government may use to push back.
The motion would then be debated on the floor of the Legislature, followed by a free vote of MLAs and - if the majority vote is in favour - the passage of the motion.
At this point, Cabinet is then tasked with implementing the specific "measures" identified in the motion.
The usual suspects have continued to claim that it's unconstitutional for Alberta to insist that the federal government follow the constitution, and to refuse to help them enforce their laws when they don't.
This was always a strange argument, but even more so now, given the bill explicitly says, right near the start:
Nothing in this Act is to be construed as (a) authorizing any order that would be contrary to the Constitution of Canada.
Some, however, have now finally come to understand the Strategy.
Take the National Post's Carson Jerema, for example, who - just a few months ago - was attacking the Sovereignty Act.
Yesterday, he got behind it, in a piece entitled: "Surprise, Danielle Smith's sovereignty act is very likely constitutional"...
This is hardly the Constitution-breaking plan, which Smith’s critics, myself included, warned about during her campaign for the UCP leadership. The characterization of the sovereignty act as a threat to the rule of law, which some critics are still expounding, is simply wrong. Jesse Hartery, a Toronto lawyer with expertise in federalism, says he has been frustrated by the debate around the sovereignty act because the proposal, as currently written “appears to be constitutional,” based on existing law.
“One government can seek assistance from the other, can co-operate with the other, but they can’t require the other to implement and enforce their laws,” he told me by phone Wednesday morning. “So the (Supreme) Court has never endorsed that, and in fact, there’s decisions where the court says: there’s no positive obligation on a province or the federal government to co-operate with the other.”
Of course, for those of you who've been following our work for a while, it's not at all a surprise that the Sovereignty Act is constitutional!
It's not a surprise to us, because this has been our argument for over a year - one that we've repeatedly explained in these emails, on social media, on traditional media, in virtual town halls, physical events, and more.
Provinces have always had the right to refuse to endorse federal laws, and to do so is not contrary to the Constitution of Canada.
The reality is that the attacks are nothing but political theatre from a group of politicians and critics that have been missing the mark on western alienation for years now.
We’ve seen how far the federal government is willing to go to impose their Laurentian views on the rest of the country. They’ve made a mockery of the political system over the past eight years, launching an all-out war on our energy industry that has landlocked our resources and destroyed our livelihoods. We all remember the dark days when unemployment was the highest in the country, debts were coming due, and suicide rates were high. None of us want to relive that.
The Sovereignty Act is absolutely necessary, and the fact that the Sovereignty Act is Bill 1 demonstrates that this new government has put standing up to federal overreach at the top of the priority list.
Its introduction has already caught the attention of the federal government, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saying that he isn’t “looking for a fight,” over the Sovereignty Act.
In his comments, there appears to be some awareness that bringing the hammer down on Alberta over this legislation would create potential issues in Quebec and Saskatchewan, with both provincial governments undoubtedly monitoring the situation in Edmonton closely.
The Alberta Sovereignty Within A United Canada Act has a purpose - to give Alberta a tool to protect against federal intrusions into provincial affairs. With this Bill, it appears that Premier Danielle Smith and her team hit all the right notes.