By Marnie Cathcart, The Epoch Times, December 7, 2022
EDMONTON—Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s Sovereignty Act, having just made it through first reading in the legislature, has generated both praise for its stated purpose of providing a “constitutional shield” against overreach by Ottawa, and suggestions that the bill is unconstitutional and undemocratic.
The act’s stated purpose is to “protect Albertans from federal legislation or policies that are unconstitutional or harmful to our province, our people or our economic prosperity.”
Critics say Bill 1, the Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act, would give cabinet new powers to bypass the legislative assembly and unilaterally amend provincial laws, something that came to be known as a Henry VIII clause. This term refers to clauses that allow ministers to use executive powers, rather than legislative processes, to modify or change laws without oversight or debate by the elected members of the legislature.
Acknowledging criticism and stating that the bill requires more clarity, Smith said on Dec. 5 that the United Conservative Party has voted to put forward two amendments to Bill 1 to clarify clauses of concern.
Included in the legal wisdom referenced for this round-up of opinion about the proposed act:
Bruce Pardy, executive director of Rights Probe and a professor of law at Queen’s University, says Bill 1 is a sign that “Alberta is not satisfied with the way the Canadian federation is working.”
“From Alberta’s perspective, the federal government’s interpretation of its jurisdiction and constitutional mandate is problematic, and has taken on the practice of imposing its policy preferences on provincial matters,” Pardy told The Epoch Times.
“In addition, some policy matters are traditionally dealt with in a cooperative manner, but this act signals that the federal government should not take that cooperation from Alberta for granted,” he said.
Pardy adds that the “real value” of the bill is perhaps political, drawing comparisons with Quebec.
“Quebec has received all kinds of favourable treatment from Ottawa since it asserted its uniqueness and dissatisfaction with the constitutional order. For years Alberta arguably has received the short end of the stick from Ottawa. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t rattle the cage.”
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