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Trudeau says he’s ‘not looking for a fight’ over Alberta Sovereignty Act


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “not looking for a war” after the Alberta government submitted controversial legislation Premier Danielle Smith said it would ask Ottawa to “withdraw” from the province’s jurisdiction.

Alberta’s sovereignty in the United Canada Act — filed Tuesday in the Alberta legislature — is central to Smith’s campaign for leadership of the ruling United Conservative Party in the fall. this.

The bill describes how the government of Alberta plans to refuse to enforce federal laws, policies or programs that it deems “harmful” to Alberta’s interests or violate the separation of powers in the Constitution. France.

It would also grant Smith’s cabinet new powers to bypass the legislative assembly and unilaterally amend provincial laws.

VIEW | Trudeau says he’s ‘not looking for a fight’

Trudeau says he’s ‘not looking for a fight’ with Alberta over the Sovereignty Act

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plans to monitor developments on the controversial bill but said his government will focus on ‘benefiting the people of Alberta’.

“I think we got their attention,” Smith said of the federal government during Tuesday’s press conference.

“I hope that we have sent a message to Ottawa that we will vigorously defend our jurisdictions and that they should withdraw.”

Asked how the federal government might respond to the proposed law, Trudeau said he would take a wait and see approach.

“We’ll see how this plays out,” Trudeau told reporters Wednesday. “I won’t take anything off the table, but I don’t want to fight either.”

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith watches Attorney General Tyler Shandro explain her long-awaited Sovereignty Act, which will significantly expand the powers of the provinces. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc rejected the argument that the bill challenges federal jurisdiction, saying the proposed legislation has yet to pass into law and could be changed when it is contested. debate in the Legislature of Alberta.

“I’m not sure if someone would hold a press conference, that would constitute a constitutional challenge,” LeBlanc said, referring to Smith.

Liberal MP Anthony Housefather was less reserved — he called the legislation “a bit over the top.”

“I believe Canada is not just the sum of its parts,” he said. “I strongly believe, as a Canadian, that people should act in their lane — and acting in their lane means that legislatures don’t determine if something is constitutional or not from another level of government.”

Conservative MP Garnett Genuis of Alberta said the legislation highlights the frustration Albertans feel with the federal government.

“The prime minister needs to address the steps he has taken that cause tension and frustration like this,” he said. “We can do more at the federal level to promote national unity.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh addressed the Sovereignty Act during question time in the House of Commons on Wednesday. Singh suggested that Alberta could use the act to undermine the Canadian Health Act and privatize some health services in the province.

“What is the prime minister doing to stop Danielle Smith from ruining the health care system in Alberta?” Singh asked.

In response, Trudeau said that while he understands some people’s concerns about the legislation, he wants to work constructively with Albertans on health care, economic and environmental issues.

Past challenges to federal law

Before Smith took over as prime minister from Jason Kenney, the Alberta government challenged a number of federal laws in court – most notably the one that allowed for a federal carbon tax.

In March 2021, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the tax in a 6-3 ruling against the legal action of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario. Smith said in October that she would challenge the law again.

Alberta has also challenged a federal environmental assessment law that allows federal regulators to review the impact of large construction projects — like pipelines — on a range of environmental and social issues, including climate change.

The Alberta Court of Appeals rejected the impact assessment law — formerly known as Measure C-69 — in May, but the Supreme Court has yet to weigh in.

On Tuesday, Smith said her proposed new action would “re-establish the relationship with Ottawa.”

“We’ve tried different ways in the past and it didn’t work,” she said, adding that she hopes she’ll never have to use the act.

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