Edmonton(ATB); UCP leadership candidate Danielle Smith’s promised Alberta sovereignty act
has “dubious constitutionality,” law experts say.
This week, Smith released an overview of the proposed act, which she says would be used to
defend the province from “Ottawa’s continuous economic and constitutional attacks.”
“The majority of Albertans are frustrated with the ineffective letter writing campaigns and empty
rhetoric employed by past premiers in dealing with attacks on Alberta by our federal
government, and want effective action to deal with the ‘Ottawa Problem’ without further delay,”
Smith said in a news release.
“Tens of thousands of Albertans have embraced the idea of the Alberta Sovereignty Act, and
many more are open to learning more about how it could be practically and effectively
According to the overview, the act would affirm the authority of the legislature to refuse
provincial enforcement of specific federal laws or policies “that violate the jurisdictional rights
of Alberta” under the Constitution of Canada or Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The act’s objective is not to separate from Canada but to assert Alberta’s constitutional rights “to
the furthest extent possible by effectively governing itself as a nation within a nation.”
University of Alberta professor and constitutional law expert Eric Adams has concerns with the
“I think the concept in and of itself, is of dubious constitutionality,” said Adam“It’s all well and
fine for Ms. Smith to declare that it is constitutional, but any time you have one level of
government claiming that it has the power to refuse the lawful enactments of another level of
government or to be the institution in charge of determining what’s constitutional or not, then
you raise a number of constitutional problems that the details probably can’t save.”
If the federal government institutes a law or policy that appears to violate Alberta’s jurisdiction
rights, according to Smith’s overview, the Alberta government may introduce a “special motion”
for a free vote of all MLAs.
The special motion would identify the law or policy believed to be in violation of the
Constitution or Charter, include an explanation of the harms it would inflict on Albertans, and
detail specific actions the province and its agencies will take to refuse or otherwise oppose
enforcement in Alberta.
The special motion would also declare that by the authority of the act, the law or policy in
question will not be enforced within Alberta, as outlined in the motion. Finally, she said, a
review and debate of whether or not to amend, end, or continue the actions outlined in the special
motion would be scheduled within two years, or within 90 days of a court order staying the
special motion or declaring it unconstitutional itself, whichever is sooner.
While invoking the act will “likely be done relatively sparingly,” the overview outlines a number
of areas where the act could be used. This includes federal mandatory vaccination policies, the
use of the Emergencies Act to jail and freeze accounts of peaceful protestors, and mandatory
emissions and production cuts to Alberta energy companies.
Adams said Smith is claiming the party has the power of a court of law to determine what is or is
not contrary to the Charter.
“It points to, I think, the danger of a politician claiming that she has the authority and the
monopoly on determining which laws she says are constitutional or not,” Adams said. “We have
a process to do that in our system of government, and it’s the courts.”