With the UCP dissolving the legislature and dropping the writ a month before the election, an independent alternative continues with the faintest of heartbeats.
The Independence Party of Alberta has faced its fair share of controversies. They recently booted Pastor Arthur Pawlowski as leader amid his ongoing legal disputes concerning COVID lockdown measures and internal party strife consistent with smaller political parties.
But the MLA Candidate for Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills hopes to turn a new page for the party by laying the groundwork for an independent Alberta.
Katherine Kowalchuk, a practitioner of family law by trade, told Rebel News that "enough is enough," citing recent attempts by Ottawa to attack Alberta's economy and property rights and supersede provincial jurisdiction.
"Many are upset [with Ottawa's treatment of Alberta]," she said. "Many know that the only way to change the Constitution is to separate by referendum. Of those, many want to separate."
She cited the cryptic messaging about revoking the National Resource Transfer Agreements from provinces as an example of the stressed relationship between Ottawa and Alberta.
Additionally, the federal aim to lock equalization until 2029 and a renewed effort to pass Bill C-21 shows 'Laurentian Canada' cares not for the rights and prosperity of Western Canadians, added Kowalchuk.
After meeting with Indigenous leaders on April 5, Liberal Justice Minister David Lametti said he would consider revoking the Natural Resources Transfer Agreement with the Prairie provinces.
In the 1930s, Ottawa transferred control over land and natural resources to Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Lametti said he would not take an "uncontroversial" action to rectify Indigenous land ownership and resource development concerns.
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith claimed that Ottawa following through on this would pose an "unprecedented risk to national unity."
According to several chiefs, Alberta should have consulted them on The Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act, which the province pursued to defend provincial jurisdiction against federal intrusion. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau voiced his concerns over the bill last month but said the onus to challenge them lies in the court system.
Last year, Onion Lake Cree Nation commenced legal action against the UCP over the bill, decrying insufficient consultation and arguing the Sovereignty Act negated the guarantees of rights in the treaty to "freedom and agency."
Ultimately, Kowalchuk is cynical about the Act, claiming it was implemented to "placate Albertans wanting change."
"[Like the Fair Deal Panel Report], it did not change anything," she said.
According to Dr. Michael Wagner, a political scientist and avid Alberta separatist, the Sovereignty Act is "not enough."
"If it is constitutional, as Danielle Smith says, then it hasn't gotten anything for Alberta that we didn't have already," he told Rebel News. "But if it's unconstitutional, as many critics say, then using the Sovereignty Act will result in the federal government challenging Alberta in court."
Wagner said the painstaking legal process "could take years" to resolve. "It will end up at the Supreme Court of Canada where 7 of the 9 judges are from Eastern Canada, so Alberta's chances are not good."
On the election campaign, he commented that Smith is trying to "minimize" her autonomy-related promises for now. "But even if she is re-elected, I don't have a lot of confidence that she can or will do much to improve Alberta's position within Canada."
The Fair Deal Panel brought the autonomy debate to the forefront of the province's political discourse several years ago, including the viability of an Alberta Pension Plan and Provincial Police Force. Smith has remained mum on both in the months preceding the 2023 election campaign.
In December, she hoped a referendum might be possible with the May election but has since admitted the province would not likely make getting out of the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) a ballot question for the general election.
"It's unlikely to be held in May," she said. "We want to make sure people understand the implications and the cost, and it's unlikely that we'll be able to roll that out that quickly, but I wanted to make sure people knew that if we did proceed with the decision, then it would be up to the people, as the Fair Deal Panel had recommended to us."
Kowalchuk, like Wagner, is not confident Smith and the UCP will follow through with their autonomy agenda on either portfolio.
"One of the first initiatives toward Alberta independence is to collect all provincial and federal taxes in Alberta — not through the CRA," added Kowalchuk. "Albertans want reassurance they will still benefit from what they have paid into, which is fair."
"The jobs related to collecting, processing and auditing tax revenues of Albertans and Alberta corporations should be done in Alberta by Albertans. As an independent nation, we would have our own police force and pension plan. However, the first step is to take control of the money," she continued.
Wagner added the "internal turmoil" of the Wildrose Independence Party and The Independence Party will "severely diminish their ability to present an independent alternative for Albertans."
"The provincial police force and pension plan may be good ideas, but they wouldn't help Alberta get new pipelines for exporting oil," he said. "So I'm not concerned about the lack of action on those matters now."
"Alberta has the highest environmental and resource exploitation regulations on the planet. We should be leading the world in all sectors," contends Kowalchuk.
"Our population is one of the most educated, skilled, responsible of all populations," she continued, adding Albertans must remove its "leftist globalist shackles" to be "prosperous" and "free."
By separating and becoming a Constitutional Republic, Kowalchuk said Alberta would get its resources to Tidewater, as guaranteed by international law.