When the Alberta legislature resumed sitting Tuesday, the first bill introduced by the United Conservative Party government was one aimed at shielding the province from federal laws it deems harmful to its interests.
The Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act was a key promise from Premier Danielle Smith when she was running for the leadership of the party, replacing Jason Kenney.
Smith said Tuesday that past efforts to work with the federal government have not worked and Ottawa continues to interfere in constitutionally protected areas of provincial responsibility.
Here are four areas Alberta has accused the federal government of overreaching:
Last year, Kenney said that he hoped the Supreme Court of Canada decision upholding Ottawa’s right to levy a carbon tax on provinces wouldn’t open the door to federal overreach in other areas.
Alberta, along with Ontario and Saskatchewan, challenged the federal carbon pricing rules.
In its 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that climate change is a critical threat to the globe and that Canada cannot effectively combat it if each province can go its own way on greenhouse gas emissions.
Kenney’s government campaigned and won the 2019 election around a centrepiece promise to scrap the Alberta NDP consumer carbon tax and that was his first bill as premier, prompting Ottawa to impose its own levy at the start of 2020.
Smith, who was sworn in as premier last month, has said her government is planing another challenge.
IMPACT ASSESSMENT ACT
The Alberta government, calling it a Trojan Horse, challenged the federal act and was supported by Saskatchewan and Ontario.
The Impact Assessment Act, given royal assent in 2019, lists activities that trigger an impact review and allows Ottawa to consider the effects of new resource projects on a range of environmental and social issues, including climate change.
Alberta asked its Appeal Court for a reference, or an opinion, which is not a binding decision and is used to guide governments in determining a law’s meaning or constitutionality.
In May, the Alberta Court of Appeal said the act is an “existential threat” to the division of powers guaranteed by the Constitution.
In September, the Alberta government said it was taking steps to oppose federal firearms prohibition legislation and the potential seizure of thousands of assault-style weapons.
Since May 2020, Ottawa has prohibited more than 1,500 different models of assault-style firearms from being used or sold in Canada. It has committed to establishing a buyback program to remove those firearms from communities.
Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro said the province will not agree to have RCMP officers act as “confiscation agents” and will protest any such move under the provincial-federal agreement that governs policing.
Alberta also plans to seek intervener status in six ongoing judicial review applications challenging the constitutionality of the legislation.
The Alberta government, along with Saskatchewan, said in July that it was disappointed with Ottawa’s fertilizer emissions reduction target.
Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau has said reducing those emissions by nearly a third by 2030 is ambitious but must be accomplished.
In a news release at the time, the provinces said the commitment to future consultations is only to determine how to meet the target “unilaterally imposed” on the industry, not to consult on what is achievable or attainable.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2022.
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