TOP News

Canada: Legal experts say Ottawa unlikely to be 'main combatant' in Alberta sovereignty fight

Colby Cosh: Danielle Smith's unnecessary political power grab

  Colby Cosh: Danielle Smith's unnecessary political power grab Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s very weird, headline-grabbing Bill 1, now officially before the Alberta legislature, has me reflecting on recent Canadian history — trying to take it all in with one very big swallow. How is the not-that-far future, say the year 2122, going to make sense of this? Someone in China smooches a croupy bat, and within a few months nobody can visit their grandparents or get married or go to church or have funerals, and so there’s a completely foreseeable uprising of hinterland folk, inevitably led by its least employable elements and its dodgiest self-appointed prophets.

CALGARY — Constitutional law experts say it's unlikely Ottawa will rush to fight Alberta over a proposed sovereignty bill that would give the provincial government new powers to resist what it considers federal intrusion.

  Legal experts say Ottawa unlikely to be 'main combatant' in Alberta sovereignty fight © Provided by The Canadian Press

Eric Adams, a constitutional law expert at the University of Alberta, calls the legislation "unprecedented" and an attempt to "rewrite the basic rules of federalism."

But he doesn't expect the federal government will engage.

"I think the more likely scenario here is that calm and cool heads will dictate that the federal response should be mostly a passive one — at least in the early days — and that they'll be eager to wait for this matter to get in front of the courts and then they'll decide how deeply involved they become," he said Wednesday.

Trudeau says he's 'not looking for a fight' over Alberta Sovereignty Act

  Trudeau says he's 'not looking for a fight' over Alberta Sovereignty Act OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government isn’t “looking for a fight” with Alberta Premier Danielle Smith over her Alberta Sovereignty Act, but said he also won’t take any options off the table. Smith introduced her long-promised legislation in the Alberta legislature on Tuesday. It sets up a mechanism where Alberta could potentially ignore federal laws or regulations if it deems them harmful to the province’s interest or a constitutional overreach. On his way into a caucus meeting Wednesday morning, Trudeau said the federal government will take a wait-and-see approach.

"My strong suspicion is they don't want to be the main combatant."

The proposed Alberta Sovereignty within a United Canada Act introduced Tuesday would grant Premier Danielle Smith and her cabinet broad powers to rewrite provincial laws behind closed doors if a resolution passes in the house identifying a federal matter deemed unconstitutional or harmful to Alberta.

It would allow cabinet to direct Crown-controlled organizations, municipalities, school boards, municipal police forces and other entities to not use funds to enforce federal rules.

Smith said past efforts to work with the federal government haven't worked and Ottawa continues to interfere in constitutionally protected areas of provincial responsibility from energy to health care.

Legal experts say Ottawa unlikely to be 'main combatant' in Alberta sovereignty fight

  Legal experts say Ottawa unlikely to be 'main combatant' in Alberta sovereignty fight CALGARY — Constitutional law experts say it's unlikely Ottawa will rush to fight Alberta over a proposed sovereignty bill that would give the provincial government new powers to resist what it considers federal intrusion. Eric Adams, a constitutional law expert at the University of Alberta, calls the legislation "unprecedented" and an attempt to "rewrite the basic rules of federalism." But he doesn't expect the federal government will engage. "IEric Adams, a constitutional law expert at the University of Alberta, calls the legislation "unprecedented" and an attempt to "rewrite the basic rules of federalism.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau briefly addressed the proposed legislation Wednesday.

"I'm not going to take anything off the table,'' he said in Ottawa. "I'm also not looking for a fight."

Adams said the federal government would be playing into Smith's hands if it was seen to be singling out Alberta for different treatment given the largely hands-off approach it has used in its dealings with Quebec.

He said a case might be made before the courts that the bill is constitutional, but he doesn't expect that will happen.

"I think it goes too far in suggesting that provinces have the authority to order entities within the province to refuse federal laws," Adams said.

He said it also might make sense for Ottawa to wait until Alberta's scheduled provincial election in May.

"The other possibility is this is legislation that is not long lived. Certainly, the NDP has indicated that they don't support the bill and I imagine this will be one of the wedge issues in the election campaign to come."

Rex Murphy: When Trudeau, Singh and the Toronto media are all against Danielle Smith, you know she must be doing something right

  Rex Murphy: When Trudeau, Singh and the Toronto media are all against Danielle Smith, you know she must be doing something right I have some very good news for you, Danielle Smith: over here in Toronto, the centre of the universe, your recent legislation — the Alberta sovereignty within a united Canada act — is being rebuked, dismissed and ridiculed. In the Toronto Star — that fountain of sensitivity and social justice — Toronto-based columnist Andrew Phillips suggested that you look like you’re “flailing around like a bad drunk in a bar,” and that your bill “isn’t a serious law.” This is the language of raw insult, normally reserved for the darker sewers of anonymous Twitter postings.

Martin Olszynski, an associate law professor at the University of Calgary who focuses on energy, environment and natural resources, called the proposed legislation "extraordinary."

"And when people make extraordinary claims they should require extraordinary proof," he said.

"The premier would have us believe that in order to be successful in her fight with Ottawa she needs to kneecap democratic accountability in the province of Alberta and I find that really hard to accept."

Olszynski said it's unlikely the bill, if passed, would give Alberta an advantage when it comes to natural resource development, since most federal resource laws apply directly to companies operating in the province.

"If you're Suncor and you want to build an oilsands mine, there's no scope there for the provincial government to say we're not going to enforce this legislation," he said.

"It applies to you directly and you have a federal bureaucracy that you deal with. The same is true for our oil and gas emissions cap. The same is true for the carbon price."

Olszynski expects the sovereignty act will go to the courts in Alberta, but it will be driven by individuals and groups within the province.

"(Smith is) asking the legislature to give her an extraordinary power for her and her colleagues so I think there are going to be Albertans who looking at that situation aren't convinced that is a good way to go."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2022.

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

Alberta NDP says premier's rejection of federal authority lays separation groundwork .
EDMONTON — Alberta’s NDP Opposition leader says Premier Danielle Smith's comments rejecting the legitimacy of the federal government betray her unspoken plan to lay the groundwork for eventual separation. Rachel Notley cited Smith’s comments to the house just before members passed her sovereignty bill earlier Thursday, in which Smith rejected the federal government’s overarching authority. “It's not like Ottawa is a national government,'' SmithRachel Notley cited Smith’s comments to the house just before members passed her sovereignty bill earlier Thursday, in which Smith rejected the federal government’s overarching authority.

See also