Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is rejecting accusations that a bill giving her and her cabinet the power to rewrite laws while bypassing the legislature is an undemocratic, dangerous power grab.
“All Albertans expect their elected officials to stand up for Alberta, no question,” opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley told Smith during question period on Wednesday.
“But we learned yesterday that the premier’s approach on sovereignty is not that, but rather a full-fledged power grab from Albertans.
“She allows herself the ability to write laws in secret behind closed doors, no reviews, no checks, no balances. Just an unprecedented abuse of authority.”
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Not so, Smith said. She said the legislature is still in control.
“Any decision that is going to be made has to get the approval of this meeting first,” Smith said.
“This meeting will approve a motion, and it will give the direction to the cabinet. It will always be the direction of the members (from which) we will make decisions in the cabinet.”
Smith made the comments a day after she introduced her first bill as Alberta’s new premier, fulfilling a promise she made in the recent United Conservative Party leadership campaign to introduce legislation giving Alberta the power to federal reject laws and policies deemed to interfere with provincial jurisdiction.
The bill, titled the Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act, would give Smith’s cabinet the power to decide which federal laws, programs and policies — or potential federal initiatives — are unconstitutional and should be challenged.
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They will then be given sweeping powers normally reserved for public emergencies to deal with the threat.
Cabinet will be allowed to rewrite bills they deem necessary to address the damage being done to Alberta.
They would also be given the power to instruct any provincial agency, municipality, school board, health district or municipal police force and others not to enforce federal laws.
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The bill also states that before the cabinet can act using such extraordinary powers, the legislature must first pass a special resolution spelling out the nature of the federal damages and the recommended remedies.
It’s this lawmaker’s oversight that Smith said keeps the cabinet straight.
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However, the bill does not stipulate that the cabinet must follow the specific instruction of the legislator. Instead, it says the cabinet “should consider” using the remedies spelled out in the resolution.
As for the extraordinary measures, the bill says the cabinet is free to carry out whatever it deems “necessary or advisable” to deal with the threat.
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Administrative law professor Martin Olszynski, who has written about the sovereignty bill since Smith first proposed it in the spring, said if the government really wanted to make sure the cabinet directly and explicitly followed the wishes of the legislature, it needed to make that clear. made. in the account – but it did not.
“There is a lot of room for (cabinet) to exercise discretion,” Olszysnki said in an interview.
“What they are asking is that Albertans will take them on faith that they will exercise (these powers) in a restrictive manner when they cannot even agree to bind themselves using the language of the act.”
Olszysnki and other constitutional experts criticized the bill as constitutionally dubious and a gross infringement of provincial authority.
Smith defended the bill after it was introduced Tuesday, saying Alberta had tried less confrontational measures with no effect and that the federal government “needs a push.”
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