Notley says Sovereignty Act will 'chase away' investment

Bill 1, the Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act, provides the province with a legal framework to fight 'unconstitutional' or 'harmful' federal laws or policies that interfere in provincial jurisdiction.

Notley says Sovereignty Act will 'chase away' investment
The Canadian Press / Jeff McIntosh and The Canadian Press / Jason Franson
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Though sovereignty is not considered a bread-or-butter election issue for Albertans, NDP leader Rachel Notley attempted to earn brownie points from her base by criticizing the since amended Alberta Sovereignty Act during Thursday's televised leadership debate.

"Premier Smith brought in the Sovereignty Act - an act her former finance minister very clearly said was going to chase away investment," said Notley, adding the Act "undermines the rule of law."

On December 8, the UCP passed Bill 1, the Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act, after introducing several amendments to the legislation after the public raised concerns about its constitutionality.

Bill 1 provides the province with a legal framework to fight 'unconstitutional' or 'harmful' federal laws or policies that negatively impact the province, including those that overreach and interfere in provincial jurisdiction. 

The UCP clarified that changes to existing legislation are made through the usual legislative processes, and the cabinet can only amend regulations, not legislation. Expressly, harm is limited to either "an effect on or interference with an area of provincial legislative jurisdiction" or "interference with the charter rights of Albertans."

The NDP leader accused Smith Thursday of "supporting the private interests of someone accused of wanting to promote violence against the police" in the same exchange, adding, "This chases away investment."

Smith defended a leaked February 9 call with the accused Pastor Pawlowski where she told him she had weekly contact with "prosecutors" on his criminal charges stemming from the Coutts border blockade. She contends it's her job as an elected official to listen and act on concerns from the public.

On May 2, a judge found Pawlowski guilty of mischief for encouraging truckers to continue blockading Coutts. He remains on trial for violating the Critical Infrastructure Act and breaching bail conditions.

"Ms. Notley, you and the CBC need to apologize to Albertans," countered Smith. "You flat out lied for several months, saying that I and my office contacted Crown Prosecutors."

On Thursday morning, Alberta Ethics Commissioner Marguerite Trussler found no evidence that Smith and her staff contacted Crown Prosecutors on any COVID prosecutions, despite the Official Opposition and the CBC having repeatedly peddled the allegation since January.

"[The Sovereignty Act,] amended, or not, will harm our economy," said Notley at the legislature on December 7. The following day, she called the legislation "destabilizing" to the economy and investor confidence in the region.

"We cannot afford to have Smith's job-killing Sovereignty Act inject chaos into our province…so we are calling on Danielle Smith to refer this act immediately to the Alberta Court of Appeals for ruling on its constitutionality before it is proclaimed into law," said the Official Opposition leader.

On November 30, Finance Critic Shannon Phillips bemoaned the Sovereignty Act as "a disaster for the Alberta economy — for business conditions, regulatory certainty and job growth." She claimed talk of the Act had put a chill on investment.

Alex Pourbaix, the president and CEO of Cenovus Energy, added, "I suspect those initial comments were directed at ensuring legislation maintains investor confidence. At this point, I have not heard anything from investors worrying about it."

The premier ensured her government would meet all constitutional and legal requirements before challenging perceived federal overreach and would respect court decisions if a response is contested successfully. No Alberta MLAs have filed a motion to examine federal overreach into provincial jurisdiction.

"Our country works because we are a federation of sovereign, independent jurisdictions," said Smith last December. "They are one of those signatories to the constitution, and the rest of us, as signatories to the constitution, have a right to exercise our sovereign powers in our areas of jurisdiction."

According to a Fraser Institute survey, senior energy executives attributed "unpredictable provincial governments" to discouraging significant capital investment into energy infrastructure. Per Sections 92 and 92A of the constitution, provinces can make laws on matters concerning but not limited to firearms and natural resource development. 

 On May 5, Global News interviewed Smith, who discussed revitalizing Calgary's downtown core, public safety and health care — but nothing concerning autonomy. She decided not to advocate the UCP's sovereignty legislation on the election trail to win over undecided voters.

"[It's] not in our campaign because I think we've got so many things that we have done that we're excited about. We're bringing in $10-a-day daycare," she told Global.

Last month, she condemned federal Justice Minister David Lametti for suggesting Ottawa overreach into provincial jurisdiction, expressly revoking the Natural Resources Transfer Agreement with the prairie provinces to appease indigenous concerns.

"Ottawa must back off from any plans of stripping resource rights away from Albertans," she tweeted.

"These agreements recognized that the prairie provinces have the same rights over resources as all other provinces. Those rights have been fundamental to the people and the economic autonomy of Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba for nearly 100 years," reads a separate but related statement.

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  • By Ezra Levant

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