The Sovereignty Act, which we’ll finally see today, may be unconstitutional, or it may be effective, but it won’t be both

Politics

The Sovereignty Act, which we’ll finally see today, may be unconstitutional, or it may be effective, but it won’t be both
The Sovereignty Act, which we’ll finally see today, may be unconstitutional, or it may be effective, but it won’t be both
The Sovereignty Act, which we’ll finally see today, may be unconstitutional, or it may be effective, but it won’t be both

Premier Danielle Smith wants you to be reassured that her Sovereignty Act, the first bill of the session of the Alberta Legislature that begins this afternoon, will be both constitutional and effective. 

NDP justice critic Irfan Sabir (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

She wants so badly for you to think it that she has apparently renamed it the Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act

Well, if she can pull off sovereignty of the sort she has in mind within a united Canada, she’s a better magician old Mandrake ever was!

I have news for you, my fellow Albertans, the Sovereignty Act can be one, or it can be the other, but it can’t be both. 

At least, it can’t be both if you define “effective” the way Ms. Smith has been defining it. To wit: allowing Alberta simply to ignore federal laws its ruling party decides are exclusive provincial jurisdiction. 

All provinces are sovereign within in their jurisdiction in a federation like Canada, of course, and on those occasions when one level of government or another meddles in the other’s jurisdiction, and an actual case can be made for the meddling, there is a mechanism for settling the question. 

Mandrake the Magician (Image: ComicArtCommunity.com).

It’s called the courts. That’s how we Canadian settle constitutional disagreements within the rule of law. History has shown it’s an excellent way to avoid civil violence. 

Ms. Smith and her ilk are impatient with the rule of law. They want their way now and they reckon the fact they say something is so ought to make it so. 

Like the Republicans to the south who they admire and imitate, they no longer really recognize the right of anyone who disagrees with them to be elected. 

I’m pretty sure Ms. Smith knows this is not a legitimate way to run a government in a democracy, but is of a mind to play chicken with Ottawa anyway just to see what she can get away with. 

If it works, cool! If it doesn’t work, it’ll be easy to persuade her hard core supporters Ottawa is being mean to Alberta again and maybe gin up a little more chaos and division. So, also cool!

The serious professional pundits keep suggesting that Ms. Smith actually believes the Sovereignty Act idea is a vote-getter that will smooth her way to electoral victory. 

Alberta Lieutenant-Governor Salma Lakhani (Photo: Lieutenant Governor of Alberta).

More likely, one suspects, that in the absence of an effective Sovereignty Act – or one the courts make short work of – she’ll just use that fact as an excuse to move on to “clear cut intimidation and harassment,” as NDP justice critic Irfan Sabir put it after the premier indicated her government was walking away from her promise to enshrine refusal to be vaccinated as a protected category in the Human Rights Act

“Instead, Smith said she is phoning up organizations with vaccine mandates to urge them to change their minds, tying it to government funding if need be,” the Canadian Press summarized in its report of a news conference on another topic at which the premier was quizzed by reporters on this question. 

“The Arctic Winter Games wanted $1.2 million from us to support their effort and they were discriminating against the athletes, telling them they had to be vaccinated,” she said. “So we asked them if they would reconsider their vaccination policy in the light of new evidence and they did. And I was pleased to see that.”

You can watch Ms. Smith’s glib answer in the final few minutes of the government’s YouTube recording of the news conference.

NOTE TO READERS: I will be on the road later today on my way to a meeting in Ottawa when the Throne Speech is being read by Lieutenant-Governor Salma Lakhani in the Legislature in Edmonton. This is bound to impact my ability to comment as quickly as I would like on the contents of the speech. On the bright side, such performances are usually largely hot air anyway, and the analysis that really matters comes later as each piece of legislation is introduced. DJC

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