ALBERTA’s PREMIER Danielle Smith is desperately trying to appeal to her populist base by introducing her loony sovereignty act. Smith is trailing NDP leader Rachel Notley in the vote-rich cities of Edmonton and Calgary according to recent polls.
Smith’s apparent strategy is to capitalize on the notion that Alberta is hard done by and that the threats contained in the sovereignty act will get Ottawa’s attention just as Quebec was able to push a separatist agenda and win concessions.
Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet was amused. “If she does succeed and make a country out of Alberta,” he fantasized, “I will be a bit jealous, but I would say, ‘Good for you.’”
Smith fails to realize Quebec has won concessions through persistent defence of its unique culture and language. Montreal is the second largest French-speaking city in the world.
In 2006 Prime Minister Stephen Harper tabled a resolution, passed by parliament: “That this House recognize that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada.”
Quebec has its own pension plan, tax collection, health insurance and immigration policies.
In her attempt to free Alberta from the iron chains of Ottawa, Smith has come up with what can only be considered a joke.
The bill proposes to give cabinet the power to unilaterally amend legislation via orders in council. Cabinet can do so if they decide that a federal law is unconstitutional, or even just “harmful.” No need to test the constitutionality of the law in question. No need to even define the word “harmful.” Cabinet can also order provincial bodies not to enforce specific federal policies or laws. It verges on insanity.
Jason Kenney, former premier and member of Smith’s party, made it clear what he thinks of this lunacy. He called the proposed act “risky, dangerous, half-baked” and “banana republic.” To punctuate his comments, he resigned his seat on the day the sovereignty act was passed.
The bill is written so as not to take itself seriously: “Nothing in this Act is to be construed as … authorizing any order that would be contrary to the Constitution of Canada.” Not only that, but the act says it would “respect” a court ruling to the contrary.
Smith tries to assure us that the bill does not do what it plainly does.
She has gone down the rabbit hole.
“The Sovereignty Act says it can do what it can’t,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
“It can do what it can’t?” Alice replied in a puzzled tone.
“Anti-gravity principles are a heart,” said the Hatter, waving a flag with a maple leaf in her face.
It all makes sense to Smith’s populist base. The confounding and untrue are the true indicators of their veracity.
They imagine that Smith is only doing what Quebec separatists have been doing for years – that is, making threats so they can get a better deal from Ottawa. Populists like a feisty leader who will take the fight to Ottawa.
Except Quebec was never this bad at it.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops, former TNRD director and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a recipient of the Jack Webster Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award. He can be reached at email@example.com.