June 16th, 2024

Public Interest Alberta has serious concerns with Bill 1

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on December 8, 2022.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

Public Interest Alberta, a not-for-profit organization committed to advocating for public services and democratic institutions, has issued a statement criticizing the UCP’s Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act (Bill 1) as unconstitutional.

Executive director of PIA, Bradley Lafortune, said they are concerned about Bill 1 because they feel that it is deeply problematic and unconstitutional, and it also distracts the provincial government from the overlapping crises and issues that everyday Albertans are facing.

“The number one problem with Bill 1 is that we should be focused on the crisis in healthcare, the affordability crisis, the crisis in public education and a whole bunch of other issues that are real priorities for everyday Albertans across the province,” said Lafortune.

He said the second issue with Bill 1 is that it is likely unconstitutional and won’t stand up in the courts if challenged.

“I think there’s a really high degree of likelihood that it will be challenged in one way or another, because it takes away the ability for the courts to be the power that determines the constitutionality and legitimacy of federal laws and programs,” said Lafortune.

He said Bill 1 is also unnecessary.

“That power in our democratic system already exists. If Albertans or the provincial government are concerned about the legitimacy of any federal program or federal legislation, they have access to the courts, and we’ve seen that process work time and again across the country. So there’s really no reason other than politics, quite frankly, for Danielle Smith to be introducing this act at this time,” said Lafortune.

He said they are also concerned about the support from the UCP caucus for Bill 1.

“I’m not convinced that UCP members or even UCP caucus members in the UCP caucus, are supportive of this bill. I believe this is very much Danielle Smith’s pet project,” said Lafortune.

He said they believe there may be some powerful members within the UCP who are concerned about so-called sovereignty in Alberta, but the average UCP member and the average UCP MLA does not see the value in this.

“We saw in a leadership race when Danielle Smith was running for UCP leader, almost every single leadership contestant, including the outgoing premier Jason Kenney, say different versions of the sovereignty act is either unnecessary, it’s dangerous, it’s unconstitutional or it’s a distraction from the issues that really matter to everyday Albertans,” said Lafortune.

He said they have been watching the bill very closely, because they are very curious to see whether or not every single UCP MLA is going to support this bill, even with amendments.

On Monday, UCP caucus members said they would forward two amendments. 

The first change would clarify that any changes cabinet makes to laws under Bill 1 can’t be done in secret, but must instead come back to the house for the normal process of debate and approval.

The caucus also voted to propose an amendment to spell out when cabinet can take action. 

Under the bill, cabinet has wide latitude to respond to whatever federal law, policy or program it deems harmful to Alberta’s interests.

With the amendment, harm would be defined as anything a majority of the legislature deems to be an unconstitutional federal intrusion in provincial areas of responsibility.

– with files from Canadian Press

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