“We still don’t see how an act like this contributes to economic growth,” says chamber president and CEO Deborah Yedlin
The Alberta sovereignty within a United Canada Act, as tabled by Premier Danielle Smith on Tuesday, could drive investment out of the province, warns the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.
Chamber President and CEO Deborah Yedlin said the bill, which would allow the cabinet to issue directives to defy federal initiatives if passed as tabled, would not help businesses attract investment or employees if it does not accept the legislature.
“We still don’t see how an act like this contributes to economic growth,” Yedlin said, adding that Alberta competes around the world for labor and capital, and that any hints of uncompetitiveness or uncertainty could cause the province to be seen as an unfavorable jurisdiction in which to invest.
Alberta sovereignty within a United Canada Act was the cornerstone policy of Smith’s leadership campaign this summer. If passed, Bill 1 would allow ministers to bring motions to the Alberta legislature to debate whether a federal initiative is unconstitutional or harmful to Alberta and pass a resolution directing cabinet to act against the initiative . That action could include issuing directives to public entities to combat the federal idea.
Government documents argue the bill will do nothing to harm Alberta’s economy. The prime minister’s office did not return requests for comment Wednesday.
Smith said Tuesday the bill is intended to notify Ottawa of provincial jurisdiction and ensure they are equal partners within Canada’s constitution.
Yedlin argued that the law does not allow for constructive discussions with the federal government and that all levels of government must work together to make Alberta an attractive place to invest and work, saying the province must compete with jurisdictions from all corners of the world.
“This could cause us problems within Canada with other provinces, as well as with Ottawa. That’s not what we need right now,” Yedlin said. “We’ve worked with Ottawa in the past, maybe not to Prime Minister Smith’s satisfaction, but I would argue that you know, let’s call back.”
Yedlin said Quebec lost tons of investment when that province wrestled with the idea of secession. She said that while Smith’s bill makes it clear it’s not about separation, just the idea of uncertainty will cause investors to look elsewhere.
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Lisa Baiton, president and CEO of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said they are taking time to review the bill with their members. She said they are concerned about any policy that has the potential to create uncertainty for investors.
“It is important for governments at all levels to work with industry to attract investment back to Canada,” said Baiton.
Meanwhile, several groups that could fall under the law’s ‘public entity’ definition and be subject to ministerial directives said they should read the bill further before commenting.
University of Calgary representatives said the school is reviewing the bill and will seek clarity on the application if it is passed. Peter Glenn, a spokesman for Mount Royal University, said the school is reviewing the bill and will work with the province on how it applies to post-secondary institutions.
Alberta’s rural municipalities declined to comment. Speaking at an unrelated news conference, Leduc Mayor Bob Young said they haven’t had a chance to look at the bill and how it would affect municipalities.