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Alberta lieutenant-governor says not a done deal she’ll OK proposed sovereignty act


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By Dean Bennett in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Alberta’s lieutenant-governor says it’s not a done deal that she would automatically sign off on a proposal from a United Conservative Party leadership candidate to pass a bill aimed at ignoring federal laws and court rulings.

Salma Lakhani says she would seek legal advice as required, but says she is duty-bound to ensure the Constitution is followed.

“We will try and cross that bridge when we get to it, and we will get the appropriate advice that we need as to whether we can sign, whether it’s against our Constitution,” Lakhani said Thursday when asked about the sovereignty act bill proposed by former Wildrose party leader Danielle Smith.

Lakhani’s signature is required to have any law take effect. She acknowledged that some view her role as purely ceremonial and that she should simply sign any bill that passes the legislature and let the courts handle any disagreements.

She said she doesn’t view her role that way.

“We are a constitutional monarchy, and this is where we keep checks and balances,” she said.

“I’m what I would call a constitutional fire extinguisher. We don’t have to use it a lot, but sometimes we do.

“We want to do the right thing for our people and for our Constitution.”

Lakhani added it’s critical Alberta uphold the rule of law, saying she has firsthand experience after she and others of South Asian origin were expelled from an authoritarian Uganda.

“I appreciate very, very much the rule of law. I think we have to guard it and we have respect it and we also have to guard democracy. These are gifts,” she said.

Smith is the perceived front-runner among seven candidates vying to replace Jason Kenney as party leader and premier.

Candidate Brian Jean took to Twitter to address Lakhani’s comments.

“I am extremely uncomfortable with the lieutenant-governor getting political,” Jean wrote.

“That said, Danielle Smith’s lack of clarity on this issue is already causing a constitutional crisis. To end this controversy, Smith must produce the text of the sovereignty act before UCP members vote.”

The act is Smith’s centrepiece policy.

She grabbed the headlines with it in June as the campaign heated up, promising to pass a bill designed to ignore federal laws and court rulings as a way to administer a shock to a “lawless” federal government undermining Alberta’s economy.

However, legal scholars labelled the act illegal and a betrayal of the rule of law. Other politicians have stepped up to criticize it.

Smith then started describing it as symbolic and a simple recitation of rights similar to those exercised by Quebec.

Her team responded to Lakhani in a one-line statement: “As Danielle has said repeatedly, she will work collaboratively with caucus to ensure the sovereignty act is drafted in accordance with sound constitutional language and principles.”

Kenney has called Smith’s proposal “nuts” and government house leader Jason Nixon has questioned whether such a bill could pass in the form Smith has proposed.

Most of the other candidates in the leadership race say the act is not only legally dubious, but would see business and investment flee a province stricken by confusion over which rules apply on which day.

Smith has been challenged to wait until the spring general election and seek a popular mandate for the sovereignty act. Smith has declined, saying she feels she has enough popular support now to pursue it.

Confusion over the act was evident earlier this week when Smith, during the two hours of a leadership debate, described her plan at various times as a legislative cudgel and a restatement of existing values.

“It (the sovereignty act) gets us in a sovereign frame of mind,” she said.

That later prompted candidate Travis Toews to turn to Smith and ask, “What sovereignty act are you talking about today?

“The one that chases tens of billions of dollars out of this province, or the one that’s completely benign (while) over-promising and under-delivering?”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 1, 2022.

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Premier Smith uses First Ministers’ meeting to catch up with Quebec Premier Legault and Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe

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Premier Smith’s update from the Ottawa

Premier Danielle Smith participated in the First Ministers’ Meeting on health care in Ottawa and provided the following update.

Alberta is leading the country with major reform to health care. After 2.5 years of requests from Canada’s premiers, today, the federal government presented their plan. While this is a start, overall, this is significantly lower than the premiers anticipated. Premier Smith will take this information back to her team in Alberta in advance of meeting with Canada’s premiers again in the coming days.

Premier Smith also met with premiers François Legault of Quebec and Scott Moe of Saskatchewan in Ottawa in advance of today’s first ministers’ meeting.

Premier Smith and Premier Legault committed to a desired outcome for a health-care deal that recognizes and respects provincial jurisdiction over health delivery and leads to better outcomes for Albertans and Quebecers. Premier Smith stressed the importance of Alberta’s energy sector, advocating for the importance of natural gas exploration and development both for the growth of the Canadian economy and to provide energy security for Canada’s allies. Premier Legault reiterated his desire to invest in clean energy like hydroelectricity to fight climate change. Both premiers expressed concern about federal overreach and the need for the federal government to respect provincial autonomy in areas of provincial jurisdiction to better meet the needs of their citizens.

Premier Smith and Premier Moe expressed a need for flexibility in the delivery of health-care services, especially those that Alberta’s Healthcare Action Plan commits to, such as reducing surgical wait times, improving ambulance services and reducing emergency room wait times. Premier Smith emphasized Alberta’s progress on recovery-oriented care to support those struggling with mental health and addictions challenges and invited Premier Moe to Alberta to visit the province’s recovery-oriented treatment centres. The premiers also discussed the mutual importance of the energy sector to their provinces for job growth and export to Canada’s allies and a desire to work together on establishing economic corridors for trade and energy export.

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Premier Smith asks Prime Minister to halt “Just Transition” legislation

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Premier Smith meets with the Prime Minister

Premier Danielle Smith met with the Prime Minister for approximately 30 minutes primarily discussing Alberta’s request for the federal government to halt the introduction of its proposed ‘Just Transition’ legislation and other emission reduction strategies.

The Premier asked the federal government to instead work collaboratively with the Government of Alberta on developing a plan and partnership to attract energy investment and workers into Alberta’s conventional, non-conventional and emerging energy sectors while reducing Canada’s and Alberta’s net emissions.

The Prime Minister expressed a willingness to explore this strategy with the Premier through their respective ministers and the Premier will be following up with further correspondence regarding proposed next steps in the near future.

The Premier used today’s discussion to outline Alberta’s expectations as to what must and must not be included in any future federal legislation, targets or policies as it relates to Alberta’s energy sector. These expectations included:

  • Abandonment of any references to ‘just transition’ or any other terminology or policies that signal the phaseout of Alberta’s conventional or non-conventional energy sector or workforce.
  • Increased workforce training and participation in all of the conventional, non-conventional and emerging energy sectors.
  • The need for formal consultation and collaboration with Alberta before the federal government announces or implements legislation, targets or policies that materially impact Alberta’s energy sector.
  • Substantial increase in LNG exports to Asia through the lens of meeting targets through replacement of higher emitting fuel sources with clean Canadian LNG.
  • Joint federal-provincial initiatives to facilitate increased private investment in nuclear, hydrogen, bitumen beyond combustion, geothermal, lithium, helium, zero-emission vehicle, CCUS, petrochemical and other emerging technologies and fuels that make Alberta’s conventional and non-conventional energy sector increasingly carbon neutral.

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