Smith 'silent' on sovereignty in bid for re-election — autonomy advocates and separatists push back

On May 5, Global News interviewed Smith, who discussed revitalizing Calgary's downtown core, public safety and health care — but nothing concerning autonomy.

Smith 'silent' on sovereignty in bid for re-election — autonomy advocates and separatists push back
Facebook/ Danielle Smith
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Amid her re-election campaign, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has decided not to advocate for the UCP's sovereignty legislation 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," said Smith in an interview with Global News.

Bill 1, the Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act, provided MLAs the ability to file a motion to challenge federal overreach into provincial jurisdiction.

The UCP government passed the bill on December 7 after adopting several amendments to the proposed legislation, including clarification on what constitutes 'harm' and limiting amendments Cabinet can make to regulatory motions only.

On May 5, Global interviewed Smith, who discussed revitalizing Calgary's downtown core, public safety and health care — but nothing concerning autonomy.

"Danielle Smith promised Sovereignty, without defining what she means by this, and created the Sovereignty 'Do Nothing' Act to placate conservative Albertans outraged over Kenney's mandates and lockdowns," said Katherine Kowalchuk, candidate for The Independence Party. 

“The Alberta Sovereignty Act is popular, and helped to sweep her into the leadership of the UCP. She must stand on it now. Albertans expect it,” Maverick Party leader Colin Krieger told Rebel News.

On Friday, the premier lauded the province's $330 million investment in a new arena and entertainment district project in Calgary. Smith said she expects Cabinet to decide on the $1.22 billion plan by the end of summer, should they form a government on May 29.

The premier also mentioned the need to address the "public safety crisis" amid a wave of violent crime and provide support for addicts. "We're just not going to tolerate public disorder. So this is part of why we invested in another hundred police officers in Calgary and Edmonton," she said.

The UCP has contemplated legislation to compel "involuntary" and "compassionate" intervention for drug users. Over 1,600 Albertans died from unintentional drug overdoses last year — down from 1,852 people in 2021.

Kowalchuk said the UCP "looks less and less conservative by the day," expressing vehement opposition to involuntary treatment.

"We have a partnership with the federal government to be able to bring that through, and we expanded it out to both nonprofit and private spaces," said Smith in her interview.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the premiers agreed to bolster healthcare spending in February by $196.1 billion over the next decade.

He offered to top-up the Canada Health Transfer by an additional $2 billion — bringing it to $51.3 billion — while proposing a boost to the annual health transfer increase to 5% a year for five years, up from 3% under the previous cost-sharing agreement.

Kowalchuk said she supports establishing a "robust" Public Inquiry into the COVID measures and amending the Human Rights Act to add vaccination status as a protected ground. 

In December, the premier described her sovereignty legislation as necessary to reset Alberta's relationship with Ottawa. She clarified that it is not a precursor to separation.

"That piece of legislation was not meant to change anything because it can't," said Kowalchuk. 

Smith wrote to her ministers last October to look into replacing the RCMP with a provincial police service, setting up a provincial revenue agency and leaving the Canada Pension Plan. She clarified those ideas would be revisited after the election.

"We have said that we [will] do consultations on [several] of these issues. I think our sheriffs, for instance, are doing a great job," continued Smith. "The other ones, we are waiting for a couple of reports. And I've said as soon as those reports are available, we'll make them public."

“Collecting our own taxes, installing provincial police forces, starting our own pension plans, protecting our western industry are necessary for her to receive massive support from the electorate,” contends Krieger.

“Premier Smith has but one thing to do to ensure success. She must simply honour her promises. Alberta, along with the entire Canadian west, must use every available means to push provincial autonomy.”

Dr. Michael Wagner, a political scientist and avid separatist, believes her silence on sovereignty won't impact support for the UCP from the political right.

"A large percentage of Alberta independence supporters have gravitated back to the UCP in recent months, and Smith's silence on the Sovereignty Act won't affect that much at this point," he said, adding the fear of another NDP government "overshadows all other considerations for them."

"She did win over some [independence] people by championing the Sovereignty Act in the fall, and since the Act got passed, she can say that she kept her promise to those people," he said, adding the collapse and infighting within the independence movement has taken the wind from their sails.

Last month, Smith 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.

"With less than four weeks to go, only the UCP [can] counter the NDP threat in Alberta, so under these circumstances, [the right] has no choice but to stick with the UCP," said Wagner. "An NDP victory would be a disaster for this province."

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