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HomeWorld‘Catastrophically stupid’ bill to limit federal powers introduced by Alberta’s new premier

‘Catastrophically stupid’ bill to limit federal powers introduced by Alberta’s new premier

OTTAWA — Eyebrows were raised in Ottawa on Wednesday after Alberta Premier Danielle Smith introduced a bill that would giving her province sweeping powers to overrule the federal government.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he will be watching carefully to see how it the legislation is received, noting that many Albertans are opposed to it.

“I’m not going to take anything off the table but I’m also not looking for a fight,” Trudeau told reporters on his way into his party’s weekly caucus meeting.

“We want to continue to be there to deliver for Albertans.”

The sweeping new powers are contained in the “Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act,” which Smith introduced Tuesday as her first bill since she took over leadership of the United Conservative Party from Jason Kenney.

The bill would enable Alberta’s government to deem federal laws unconstitutional, and to direct provincial entities to ignore “harmful” federal policies.

Smith had promised the bill during her campaign to replace Kenney, who called the idea “catastrophically stupid” and had vowed to vote against it.

He resigned his seat as the MLA for Calgary-Lougheed an hour after Smith introduced the bill on Tuesday.

Liberal MP Arif Virani said the fact he found himself agreeing with Kenney’s response to the bill spoke volumes about his own view of the law.

Virani, who was a constitutional lawyer before entering politics, said the proposed bill is unnecessary.

“There are mechanisms for challenging the constitutionality or actions of any government,” he said.

“We saw the Alberta government do that with respect to the carbon price, and they proceeded to the Supreme Court.”

Alberta ultimately lost that case, but energy and climate policies are areas where Smith’s government has suggested it would seek to deploy the bill’s new powers.

“If passed, the act will be used to push back on federal legislation and policy that is unconstitutional or harmful to our province, our people and our economic prosperity,” the Alberta government said in a news release.

“This may include overreach and interference in areas our government considers provincial jurisdiction such as firearms, energy, natural resources and COVID health care decisions.”

Alberta Conservative MP Garnett Genuis said there is no doubt Albertans are frustrated with the federal government, citing clashes over resources development as one example.

Genuis said it’s up to the prime minister to find a way to resolve that tension.

“We could do more at the federal level to promote national unity, to promote understanding and respect between different regions,” he said.

With files from Kieran Leavitt


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