In Alberta the Smith era begins with a vengeance

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Well she did it. Alberta’s new premier Danielle Smith certainly doesn’t lack chutzpah.

After having removed her feet from her mouth since voicing her opinion on the oh-so-discriminated-against anti-vax people, Smith introduced the Alberta Sovereignty Act (Within a United Canada) last week and the chattering classes are, well… chattering. Oh they are chattering.

Her own Finance Minister Travis Toews said the act is “dangerous for the province” Although, he has since recanted that opinion and says he no longer has concerns.

Oh, the squishy spine of the politician.

Former Premier Jason Kenney said the act would turn Alberta into a “banana republic”.

Smith added the United Canada part to the bill title after some suspected there was more afoot in the bill than just allowing the Alberta government to challenge federal laws — although that in itself is pretty groundbreaking.

On the Alberta.ca website the bill is simply described at defending Alberta’s interests by giving it a legal framework to fight federal laws or policies that negatively impact the province.

So any legislation enacted by the federal government can be ignored by Alberta as long as Smith and her cabinet deem it harmful to Alberta. And any ability by an Albertan to challenge the Sovereignty Act has been limited by giving people only 30 days, rather than the traditional six months, to mount a challenge.

Debate is underway as to whether the act is even legal or constitutional.

Respected political commentator Don Martin has thoughts on the act.

Martin predicts the bill will cost Smith the election next year.

“Smith has gone straight from the political altar to a divorce from common sense – and her out-of-the-gate antics suggest she could soon claim the title of Alberta’s briefest premier,” he writes at ctvnews.ca.

And what are other critics saying?

Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University, told City News Calgary that the bill worries him.

“I didn’t anticipate the anti-democratic aspect within Alberta,” Bratt said. “The ability of bypassing the legislative assembly, the ability of directing provincial entities — and they have chosen as broad a definition of provincial entities as you can imagine. I think this is very worrisome.”

NDP leader Rachel Notley is not happy about the bill.

“There is basically nothing in the bill that would limit the government’s ability to act once a resolution is passed…It gives unprecedented ability to a brand new premier to overwhelm and sidestep the legislative assembly of this province,” she said at a press conference.

Notley also says it will drive economic investment from the province.

“There is a profound level of incompetence and/or dishonesty being perpetrated by the premier’s office and the people around her…They are jeopardizing our economic recovery.”

It is Notley’s belief that the bill should not be enacted until after the next election, so it could be debated in front of all Albertans. If Smith wins the election, that perhaps gives her more of a mandate from Albertans to pass such legislation.

Smith has not taken up on that offer as yet. Nor is she likely to.

So far Prime Minister Trudeau is not saying much about the bill. Does Smith hope to provoke him into a fight, whereupon she can call him a federal bully, once again picking on Alberta? Who knows. The old ‘the federal government is being mean to us’ chestnut has certainly worked before in Alberta.

All in all, a very interesting start to Smith’s premiership. Stay tuned. I’m sure there’s plenty more to come.