Henry VIII is not quite buried yet. The very first action the UCP takes in the spirit of the sovereignty law comes straight from the cabinet, with no reference to the legislature.
Shandro argued that it was within cabinet powers and did not require a motion from the house. He seems to be right, if not in harmony with the whole idea of the law of sovereignty.
The first worrying version of the law gave cabinet power to change laws without legislative votes. This tactic is named after the king who beheaded wives when he was not assuming dictatorial powers.
The government relented after widespread criticism. The provincial bill passed on December 7 returned the authority to MLAs.
Premier Danielle Smith’s crew doesn’t think Albertans will feel Shandro’s prosecution protocol is excessive.
They believe a majority will like these and other planned actions. They are convinced that continued pressure on Ottawa will win them the May 29 election.
But this whole episode, though dramatic on the surface, is political theater.
No law-abiding gun owner will be threatened with prosecution until next October’s deadline passes.
And the Trudeau Liberals are backing away from their Bill C-21. Five provincial governments and one territory are against it. Some Liberal MPs are coming out against C-21. The Assembly of First Nations opposes the bill.
After passing second reading, the bill is still stuck in committee, which has held dozens of meetings.
Late stage edits are in trouble and may well be changed. They seem to cover a wide range of guns that are now legally in the hands of responsible farmers and hunters.
Shandro even admits that the do-not-proceed protocol he issued will never have any practical effect.
“Since the (federal) bill has not yet been passed, the attorney general cannot confirm whether this protocol applies,” says a Justice Department briefing note.
“Overall, Alberta’s government is closely monitoring the progress of Bill C-21.” The UCP “will consider how to respond if the amendments are adopted.”
There is also the wrinkle that the government cannot order a Crown attorney not to prosecute a case.
“Prosecutors operate independently of government and political interests, and will continue to use their own discretion to determine each individual case,” the Justice note says.
The UCP staged a crowd-pleasing response to a federal bill that should not be passed as is. They won a symbolic victory with fans of sovereignty actions without any practical consequences.
On this issue, the Fed is a weakened target. For Tyler Shandro and the Smith government, this is a great moment to put a stick in their wheels.
Don Braid’s column appears regularly in the Herald