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The Justification for Alberta’s Sovereignty Act – Review Pt 1

The Truth About Bill 1 by Devon A. Thompson

Let’s Start With The Allegations

Is it true? Will Bill 1, titled “ALBERTA SOVEREIGNTY WITHIN A UNITED CANADA ACT” infringe on Albertan’s democratic rights, kill jobs and hurt Alberta’s economy? Will it drive businesses out of the Province? Let’s find out, by reading the bill.

Danielle Smith’s Reasoning Behind The Sovereignty Act

The bill lists the justifications of the Albertan Government on why it should become law. I’ll go through each justification and provide a comment.

Justification 1: “Albertans possess a unique culture and shared identity within Canada”

This is similar to Quebec’s reasoning for defending their language rights and french speaking cultures. To protect itself, Quebec has gone as far as to support Bill C-21, dubbed by the public as Trudeau’s censorship bill. Bill C-21 has built into it, mechanisms to protect French Quebec’s cultural identity, but at the expense of other industries and Provinces. So, the question that an Albertan government should rightly ask is, “will this bill or any other actions by the federal government negatively impact Albertan culture and identity”?

Sadly, many Canadians do not know very much about Albertan culture, much less respect it. There are many who view the Province as backward, needing some kind of intervention, so you’ll find that Canadians from the other 9 Provinces may have no qualms about crushing Albertan culture and identity. Should the Albertan Government be a guardian to protect against this? That’s answered by the Government in justification #2.

Justification 2: “It is the role of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta and the Government of Alberta to preserve and promote this unique culture and shared identity”

Albertans are fiercely protective of their culture and identity, therefore it should be up to them and them alone to change or modify it. Attempting to do so by force will have negative impacts on the Federation that we call Canada.

Read the justification once more time, it’s written in a clever manner. It did not just state that the Government has the responsibility to defend the Albertan culture and shared identity, it also states that the Legislative Assembly also has that responsibility. The bill purposely attempts to bring into cooperation both the legislative assembly and the Government, which is the first evidence against allegations of dictatorship.

Justification 3: “The Constitution Act, 1867, the Constitution Act, 1930 and the Constitution Act, 1982 are foundational documents that establish the rights and freedoms of Albertans and the relationship between the provincial and federal orders of government, including the division of legislative powers between them. The Province of Alberta is granted rights and powers under the Constitution Act, 1867, the Constitution Act, 1930 and the Constitution Act, 1982 and is not subordinate to the Government of Canada”

The Constitution Act of 1982 establishes the rights and freedoms of Canadians. This is pretty straightforward, so I don’t believe we need to get into it.

The Constitution Act of 1867 refers to the entirety of the Canadian Constitution. Because of Alberta’s desire to maintain control over its natural resources, section 92A, sub-titled “Laws respecting non-renewable natural resources, forestry resources and electrical energy” interests me. It says:

92A (1)  “In each province, the legislature may exclusively make laws in relation to

  • (a) exploration for non-renewable natural resources in the province;
  • (b) development, conservation and management of non-renewable natural resources and forestry resources in the province, including laws in relation to the rate of primary production therefrom; and
  • (c) development, conservation and management of sites and facilities in the province for the generation and production of electrical energy.

(2) In each province, the legislature may make laws in relation to the export from the province to another part of Canada of the primary production from non-renewable natural resources and forestry resources in the province and the production from facilities in the province for the generation of electrical energy, but such laws may not authorize or provide for discrimination in prices or in supplies exported to another part of Canada.

Authority of Parliament

(3) Nothing in subsection (2) derogates from the authority of Parliament to enact laws in relation to the matters referred to in that subsection and, where such a law of Parliament and a law of a province conflict, the law of Parliament prevails to the extent of the conflict.”

As you can see in subsection (3), the laws of the Federal Government over-rides the law of the Provinces in the case of natural resources. So this may be an issue if Bill 1 is designed to override laws of the Federal Government.

The Constitution ACT, of 1930 I assume refers to the British North American Act, of 1930 which sets out the agreement between Canada and Alberta. Reading this agreement, I have not encountered content that states that Alberta is not subordinate to the Government of Canada. The 1867 ACT exerts a lot of Federal control over Provinces, including the Federal Government’s ability to disallow an ACT of the Provincial Legislature (you can find this in section 90 of the ACT).

The Constitution clearly gives the Provinces “sovereign” control within their borders, except for those responsibilities assigned to the Federal Government by the Constitution. But the ability to disallow an ACT as well as for the Federal Government to draft an ACT in direct conflict with a Provincial ACT impacts the so-called Sovereignty of Provinces within the Dominion of Canada.

However, according to some legal scholars, disallowance, even though written into the constitution may have been rendered inoperable by constitutional convention, for example, Federation, which requires that Provinces be Sovereign Governments within the Federal State-Constitutional Monarchy-Parliamentary DemocracyDominion of Canada. Leaving only that pesky ability for the Federal Government to override Provincial legislatures by simply drafting a conflicting bill. I am not a legal expert, so I won’t dwell further on this, but its not clear to me whether or not Alberta is subordinate to the Government of Canada.

Justification 4: “Actions taken by the Parliament of Canada and the Government of Canada have infringed on these sovereign provincial rights and powers with increasing frequency and have unfairly prejudiced Albertans. The people of Alberta expect the Parliament of Canada and the Government of Canada to respect the Constitution Act, 1867, the Constitution Act, 1930 and the Constitution Act, 1982 as the governing documents of the relationship between Canada and Alberta and to abide by the division of powers and other provisions set out in those documents. Actions taken by the Parliament of Canada and the Government of Canada have infringed on the rights and freedoms of Albertans enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in an unjustified and unconstitutional manner. The people of Alberta expect the Parliament of Canada and the Government of Canada to respect the rights and freedoms of Albertans enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

Has the federal government infringed on or attempted to infringe on Alberta’s sovereign provincial rights and powers as well as the rights of Albertans enshrined in the Charter of Rights? Let’s have a look at Provincial Jurisdiction. Alberta’s Provincial Legislature has Exclusive Powers over (but is not limited to) the following:

  1. The Establishment, Maintenance, and Management of Hospitals, Asylums, Charities, and Eleemosynary Institutions in and for the Province, other than Marine Hospitals.

Jagmeet Singh in 2021 urged Justin Trudeau to intervene in Alberta’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said, “Alberta is experiencing five times the number of cases seen just a year ago. School administrators, teachers and support staff are terrified and, as a result of the decision to stop contact tracing, no one even has adequate numbers on which to base decisions. The federal government could step in and protect Albertans by providing additional support for contact tracing, testing and reporting infection rates in schools across Alberta. We recognize that health is predominantly a provincial jurisdiction but, considering the dearth of leadership shown by Jason Kenney and his United Conservative Government, we implore the federal government to use the tools at its disposal to protect Albertans. This is an urgent emergency and we cannot wait for the House of Commons to resume. We must take action now.”

Here, Singh was not even asking the Federal Parliament to intervene, he was asking the Government of Canada to intervene, and based on my understanding of the Canadian Constitution, such an intervention would result in a constitutional crisis. I believe Jagmeet Singh was asking the Prime Minister to do something illegal.

So it is clear here that Alberta does have a right to be concerned about calls from members of the Federal Parliament to violate Alberta’s sovereignty and rights within their jurisdiction. It makes sense that the Province would draft legislation to defend itself.

  1. Property and Civil Rights in the Province.

All Provinces have a duty to defend Property and Civil Rights within their jurisdiction. When Jagmeet Singh asked Justin Trudeau to intervene in Alberta’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was asking the Federal Government to abuse civil rights in Alberta. Alberta itself, under Jason Kenney abused the civil rights of Albertans through draconian covid measures (which were not as bad as other Provinces). However, Kenney, under pressure from Albertans and possible his own MLA’s, dropped many of the measures that were oppressing Albertans. Jagmeet Singh didn’t like this, so he was technically asking Trudeau to re-implement some of those abusive measures.

Furthermore, Justin Trudeau attempted to implement Inter-Provincial vaccine mandates, which would have infringed on vaccine free Albertan’s constitutional mobility right to cross into other Provinces. Furthermore, a ban on vaccine free Albertans to leave the country was enacted in addition to them being unable to fly on a plane within or outside of Alberta. It is of my opinion that Alberta has a right to challenge the precedence that was set, in order to defend its Citizens from future infringements by the Federal Government.

Let’s not forget to add that the Trudeau Government sent federal agents unto the property of Saskatchewan farm lands without the permission of the owners. Alberta was very concerned about that happening. See below:

Danielle Smith actually referenced this case as a reason to pass Alberta’s Sovereignty Act.

  1. Non-Renewable Natural Resources, Forestry Resources and Electrical Energy

Alberta and every other Province have full jurisdiction over their Non-Renewable Natural Resources, Forestry Resources and Electricals. Albertan oil is classified as a non-renewable natural resource. We know that the Federal Government, in addition to all political parties in the Federal Parliament, with a recent exception of the Federal Conservatives has stated policies to abolish the production, use and distribution of oil in and from Canada. Alberta as an oil-producing giant is of course affected by this and attempts by the Federal Government or Parliament to limit these non-renewable natural resources without the buy-in of Alberta may be engaging in an unconstitutional action. Here’s what Danielle Smith had to say about it.

These were some examples that I can find. Of course, it is entirely possible that there are other exclusive rights inferred upon the Province by the Constitutional that I might be neglecting to mention. But there’s no need to list them all, just to identify what the stated justifications are for Bill 1.

Justification 5: “It is necessary and appropriate for the Legislative Assembly of Alberta to set out measures that the Lieutenant Governor in Council should consider taking in respect of actions of the Parliament of Canada and the Government of Canada that are unconstitutional or harmful to Albertans and for Members of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta to have a free vote on such measures according to their individual judgment.”

This sounds like a reverse disallowance. The Federal Government, through the Governor General, has the power to disallow an ACT of Alberta’s Legislature if it deems it harmful to Canadians or if it infringes on Federal jurisdiction. Alberta seems to be trying to create its own disallowance clause to ignore the ACTS of the Federal Parliament that are harmful to Albertans or infringe on Albertan jurisdiction.

But pay attention to the wording, it’s clear that such a reverse disallowance could only be enacted by the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, through the Lieutenant Governor of the Province. It is in fact a democratic process.

A Twitter user responding to Trudeau’s response to the Sovereignty Act responded in the clearest description of the act. See below:

This completely matches my interpretation of this bill so far, “Provincial Government civil disobedience”. Bill 1 becoming law will certainly become a challenge for the Federal Government, as it puts the ball in their court to “crush” Alberta’s dissent, after which, it will be Alberta’s move, and checkmate would be more enshrined Sovereign rights for Alberta.

Where is the negative impact on jobs and Alberta’s economy?

So far in the justifications for the bill, it’s not evident, but maybe we’ll find reading the legislation presented in this bill. This was Part One of the review of Danielle Smith’s “ALBERTA SOVEREIGNTY WITHIN A UNITED CANADA ACT”. Subscribe today to get notified when Part 2 is posted!

What does this have to do with Critical Government Theory?

Everything. CGT teaches that citizens must be aware of the tools that government uses to keep society poor, divided and ignorant. Reading bills and acts of parliament or legislatures is a good way to get insights into what your government is thinking, what to invest in, etc. It’s also useful to be able to protect yourself and your family from harmful Government legislation before they receive royal assent.

I will be posting the introduction of CGT soon, so stay tuned!

Source: Devin A. Thompson

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith unveils proposed Sovereignty Act