Ex-finance minister wonders if Alberta sovereignty bill would pass

EDMONTON — Alberta’s former finance minister — with much of the United Conservative caucus backing him as party leader — has added his voice to those questioning whether the bill promised by a law-rejecting rival federal would be passed in the Legislative Assembly.

Travis Toews says he will pursue other levers to take the fight to the federal government instead of resorting to what he called self-aggrandizing recipes for legal and economic chaos.

“I think it would be quite debatable,” Toews said when asked in an interview on Thursday whether he believed the Alberta sovereignty act proposed by leadership candidate Danielle Smith would get enough votes to be passed in the Legislative Assembly.

“Right now about half of the (United Conservative) MPs openly support me. And I’ve certainly heard a lot of them worry about the approach of the Sovereignty Act.

Toews made the comments a day after UCP Prime Minister and Finance Minister Jason Nixon told reporters he also doubted the law would find enough support in the House.

Nixon, who said he believed Toews was the best candidate, called Smith’s proposal fundamentally illegal and unworkable, bad for business, and politically problematic for over-promising what cannot be accomplished.

Toews said he agreed and was particularly distressed about what the law would mean for business viability, investor confidence and jobs.

“An environment where you ask companies and businesses to ignore federal law is not an environment that attracts investment.”

He said uncertainties and inequities would be compounded if some companies decided to follow the province’s lead and ignore certain laws and court rulings while other companies decided to abide by them.

“It has the potential to create economic chaos in the province of Alberta,” he said.

“We need to be assertive when dealing with Ottawa on Alberta’s place in Confederation – assertive and strategic,” he added.

“I am not about all this tired political rhetoric for personal political gain that ultimately results in disillusioned Albertans and angry Albertans. »

Toews outlined his five-point plan on federal relations, which would see a provincial pension plan, a provincial police force and working with other provinces to build consensus to change the equalization formula and transfer power taxation from Ottawa to the regions.

He said his government would also pass legislation to impose tariffs on goods and services or imports from specific regions to counter rules and policies deemed unfair to Alberta.

“I’m a big believer in free trade…but Alberta needs a way to actually push back in a very specific way,” he said.

Toews resigned as finance minister at the end of May to run for the leadership. He has nearly 30 committed supporters among UCP caucus members, while Smith has two.

Smith, a former Wildrose party leader, radio talk show host and businesswoman, is seen as one of the frontrunners in the race to replace Prime Minister Jason Kenney as party leader and premier during the vote on October 6.

Last month, Smith announced that if she wins leadership, she will immediately introduce the sovereignty bill granting her government discretion to refuse to enforce any federal laws or court rulings it deems intrusive. in provincial rights or a threat to the interests of Alberta.

Smith said it’s critical that Alberta immediately draw a line in the sand when it comes to federal intrusions in areas like energy development and COVID-19 measures.

His campaign declined an interview on Thursday, but pointed to his statement a day earlier that the Sovereignty Act would be invoked on a case-by-case basis and only after gaining support from members of the chamber in a free vote.

Political scientist Duane Bratt said that while Nixon’s assessment of the bill’s flaws is accurate, the UCP caucus signaling that it may not support Smith’s signature legislation could galvanize its supporters.

“Nixon is right on this point. It’s illegal. It’s unconstitutional,” said Bratt of Mount Royal University in Calgary.

“I was wondering when there was going to be a clash between the current government and the leadership race. Well, we saw it (along with Nixon’s comments) yesterday.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 21, 2022.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press