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Canada: Rahim Mohamed: Danielle Smith's Alberta Sovereignty Act pretty awkward for the RCMP

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.

After months of speculation, the Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act (Bill 1) was finally unveiled last week. For those expecting a bombshell, Bill 1 didn’t disappoint, sending shockwaves through the country.

Premier Danielle Smith looks into the gallery as the Fourth Session of the 30th Legislature opens on Nov. 29 at the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton. Smith's new Sovereignty Act could pose problems for the RCMP, writes Rahim Mohamed. © Provided by National Post Premier Danielle Smith looks into the gallery as the Fourth Session of the 30th Legislature opens on Nov. 29 at the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton. Smith's new Sovereignty Act could pose problems for the RCMP, writes Rahim Mohamed.

Reactions to the bill have run the gamut from outrage to bafflement . Legal experts are divided on the question of its constitutionality .

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.

Much of the analysis so far has focused on the so-called King Henry VIII powers delegated to the members of Alberta’s cabinet under the act. The act in its current form empowers cabinet ministers to issue and amend regulations through orders in council, essentially allowing them to bypass the province’s legislature. (Smith announced over the weekend that she’ll rewrite parts of the bill to scale back the lawmaking powers it grants to cabinet members).

A less scrutinized, but potentially even more far-reaching dimension of the act involves its implications for the future of policing in the province.

At present, Alberta is home to a patchwork system of policing, where the RCMP — a federal agency under contract with the Alberta government — shares jurisdiction with a handful of municipal and regional police services. Policing in Alberta is community-based , with the provincial government, oversight bodies, and cities each playing a role in its administration.

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.

Bill 1, which doesn’t mention the RCMP by name, designates both municipal and regional police services as “ provincial entities ” that must comply with cabinet edicts to not enforce federal laws and policies that run afoul of the Sovereignty Act. This language appears to place the Alberta government on a collision course with the Trudeau government over its controversial mandatory gun buyback program .

Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro has already said that he will direct the province’s police agencies, including the RCMP, to not enforce the buyback program, which empowers RCMP officers to seize over 1,500 different models of prohibited firearms. Shandro has argued that he has the legal authority to do this under the Alberta-RCMP provincial police service agreement and has precedent to point to in British Columbia’s non-enforcement of some federal drug laws . The Alberta Sovereignty Act nevertheless changes the dynamic of this impasse.

FIRST READING: The shockingly toothless Alberta Sovereignty Act

  FIRST READING: The shockingly toothless Alberta Sovereignty Act First Reading is a daily newsletter keeping you posted on the travails of Canadian politicos, all curated by the National Post’s own Tristin Hopper. To get an early version sent directly to your inbox every Monday to Thursday at 6:30 p.m. ET (and 9 a.m. on Saturdays), sign up here. TOP STORY The Alberta Sovereignty Act finally arrived this week. The signature legislative promise of Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, it’s a bill designed to let Albertans thumb their nose at any federal decree they deem to be “harmful” to their interests.

For one thing, a public spat over the buyback program could be a “win-win” for both Premier Danielle Smith and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

For Smith, the dispute would play extraordinarily well in rural Alberta without hurting the UCP too much in urban areas, where handguns are the bigger threat to public safety . Further, it would give Smith an opportunity to use the Sovereignty Act without jeopardizing foreign investment (oil and gas investors who are anxious about gun crime in Alberta can always try their luck in Texas ).

For Trudeau, taking a public stand against assault weapons (and Smith) would be a vote winner in the perennial electoral battleground of southern Ontario, especially with homicide rates trending upwards . It would also give him a chance to turn the page from the rather sordid affair in Nova Scotia .

But where would this leave the RCMP? It’s one thing for Canada’s federal police agency to abide by the terms of its contract with Alberta, and quite another to comply (or be seen to be complying) with a provincial edict to not enforce federal criminal legislation. (The creation and modification of criminal law is, of course, unambiguously a federal power under Canada’s Constitution).

Alberta passes sovereignty act, but first strips out sweeping powers to cabinet

  Alberta passes sovereignty act, but first strips out sweeping powers to cabinet EDMONTON — The Alberta legislature has passed Premier Danielle Smith’s controversial sovereignty act but not before first stripping out the provision that granted Smith’s cabinet the power to bypass the legislature and rewrite laws as it saw fit. Smith’s United Conservative caucus used its majority Wednesday night to pass an amendment to affirm that the Alberta legislature still has the last word on lawmaking. It then moved directly to third and final reading on the bill and was approved around 1 a.m. Thursday, with government members standing to applaud after it cleared the final legislative hurdle.

The use of the Alberta Sovereignty Act to rebuff Trudeau’s gun buyback program would put the RCMP in a jurisdictional no-man’s land. This may be just what Smith wants.

Smith has already unveiled a plan to replace the RCMP with a provincial police force, but has had difficulty building public support for the initiative, which will cost Alberta taxpayers an additional $235 million per year (plus $366 million in startup costs). Using the Sovereignty Act to drive a wedge between the RCMP and Alberta’s other police agencies is one way for Smith to give the proposal for a provincial police force a shot in the arm.

None of this is to say that Smith is playing some sort of elaborate game of 4D chess with the RCMP — frankly, I’m not sure she even knows what she’s having for breakfast tomorrow morning. Smith, who as The Line’s Jen Gerson has pointed out is one of Canada’s luckiest politicians , has nevertheless been handed a yet another gift with Trudeau’s overreaching gun buyback program and could use it to kill two birds with one stone.

Premier Smith, the proverbial dog chasing a car, finally has her long-awaited Alberta Sovereignty Act. The question now is what to do with it? Weaponizing the act at the expense of the Trudeau gun buyback program would be a way for everybody to win.

Except, of course, the RCMP.

National Post

Rahim Mohamed is a master’s student at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy. His writing has appeared in The Line, The Hub, and CBC News Calgary.

Opinion: The likely constitutional fly in Alberta's Sovereignty Act ointment .
By Mark Mancini, Léonid Sirota and Maxime St-Hilaire There had been a great deal of apprehension about the Alberta government’s plans for a “sovereignty” law. This was followed by relief when the bill was finally introduced two weeks ago: it did not go as far as it might have. Several commentators, including legal scholars (some of them our friends), have defended its constitutionality. The bill has now been further scaled back in response to criticism. The centrepiece of the bill as it now stands is a scheme whereby the legislative assembly, by resolution, can denounce an existing or proposed federal law or policy as unconstitutional.

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