Alberta to begin new legislative session with proposed sovereignty bill

By The Canadian Press and Joey Chini

The Alberta legislature resumes sitting Tuesday and the first bill is expected to be one aimed at resisting federal laws that the provincial government deems harmful to its interests.

The “Alberta sovereignty within a united Canada act” was a key promise from Premier Danielle Smith when she was running for leadership of the United Conservative Party.

Smith has said the legislation would allow the province to reject federal laws deemed as encroaching on provincial jurisdiction but has not explained how that would be done in line with the Constitution.

The premier had also promised to introduce legislation this fall to enshrine protections for the COVID-19 unvaccinated into the provincial human rights law.

But Smith has backed down from that plan, instead saying her government would pressure businesses and organizations that have vaccine mandates to reconsider.

She recently threatened to pull provincial funding from organizations that implement vaccine mandates.

“For instance, the Arctic Winter Games wanted $1.2 million from us to support their effort, and they were discriminating against the athletes, telling them they had to be vaccinated. So we asked them if they would reconsider their vaccination policy in the light of new evidence, and they did, and I was pleased to see that,” Smith said.

Duane Bratt, political scientist at Mount Royal University, says it makes sense Smith is backing away from outlawing vaccine mandates, however he adds that doesn’t mean the province won’t act according to Smith’s preferences.

“It appears that it is not illegal to have a vaccine mandate, but the government of Alberta will bully you if you introduce one,” Bratt said.

He says it’s “highly problematic” and “inappropriate” to hear a premier say they will target individual businesses and intimidate them into lifting vaccine mandates they may have in place.

Bratt adds it remains to be seen whether the sovereignty act will launch a constitutional challenge or just be a “meaningless” piece of legislation.

Lori Williams, associate professor of policy studies at Mount Royal University, agrees with Bratt, she says Smith’s change of approach makes sense.

“It’s sort of a backdoor way of trying to accomplish the same objective in a way that can’t be challenged in the courts, or at least not as easily challenged in the courts,” Williams said. “I think that might generate more controversy rather than less.”

The new legislative session kicks off Tuesday afternoon when Lt.-Gov. Salma Lakhani reads the speech from the throne.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today