As much as one hates to agree with Jason Kenney, the man’s not wrong to call Danielle Smith’s “Sovereignty Act” proposal in her frontrunning campaign to lead the United Conservative Party “just nuts.”

Danielle Smith, at right, the frontrunner in the race to replace Mr. Kenney. Beside her is Service Alberta Minister Nate Glubish, who dropped his endorsement of Travis Toews and defected to Ms. Smith (Photo: Twitter/Danielle Smith).

Responding to reporters’ questions yesterday during a news conference to announce a lame vanity advertising effort to woo young professionals from Toronto and Vancouver to Alberta, Mr. Kenney excoriated Ms. Smith’s proposal as “a de facto plan for separatism.” 

“This would be a disaster for Alberta,” he stated. “It would massively drive away investment, it would cause people to leave the province, businesses not to come here …”

“Instead of being able to attract people we’d start to hemorrhage people,” said the premier, who announced his plan to quit in May after receiving only 51.4 per cent in a leadership review vote.

If Alberta adopted a policy of ignoring the courts and the rule of law to assert its sovereignty, he asked, “why wouldn’t other provinces?” 

“If the principle of the so-called Sovereignty Act were to be accepted by other Canadian provinces,” he warned, pausing for emphasis, “farewell pipelines!” He mocked the notion held by some of Ms. Smith’s supporters that in such circumstances the United Nations could make British Columbia permit a pipeline it didn’t want on its territory. 

Alberta Lieutenant-Governor Salma Lakhani (Photo: Government of Alberta).

During a broadcast Saturday of his personal on-air Corus Radio program, the soon-to-be-ex premier told a listener that Alberta “would become a laughing stock” if the Legislature passed the Sovereignty Act as proposed by former right-wing radio host Smith.

Lieutenant-Governor Salma Lakhani would almost certainly refuse to sign it, Mr. Kenney predicted. And “if a lieutenant-governor were, in the unthinkable circumstance, to grant it Royal Assent, it would immediately be struck down by the courts.”

That’s happened before in Alberta – the last time the province had a radio preacher for a premier, as a matter of fact.

When premier William Aberhart’s Social Credit government passed laws in 1937 that brazenly invaded federal jurisdiction, Lieutenant-Governor John C. Bowen exercised his vice-regal prerogative and refused to allow the legislation. 

Mr. Aberhart had more democratic legitimacy when he was overwhelmingly elected in 1935 than any new UCP premier will in 2022. He got the job in a general election, not as a result of a party vote to replace an unpopular premier as is Ms. Smith’s potential path to power.

John C. Bowen, Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta from 1937 to 1950 (Photo: Government of Alberta).

Be that as it may, it’s still pretty bold for a guy like Mr. Kenney to say this, seeing as he held a divisive and constitutionally meaningless referendum on Canada’s equalization program during a low-turnout municipal election to please the same portion of the UCP’s increasingly extremist base that now supports Ms. Smith. 

When Mr. Kenney made his remarks Saturday, tout le monde political Alberta hopped down the rabbit hole of whether or not a premier about to be put out to pasture should be criticizing the proposals of candidates to replace him, something he promised not to do.

The debate split predictably between Ms. Smith’s supporters and those who would prefer to see a more conventional politician with a better chance of defeating the NDP in the next election at the helm. Mr. Kenney responded yesterday by claiming he was only assailing the proposal, not the person who made it.

For her part, Ms. Smith argued that, never mind its blatantly unconstitutional premise, no one should judge the constitutionality of her proposal until they’ve actually seen the legislation.

UCP leadership candidate Travis Toews (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

This all meant there wasn’t much discussion of the fact Ms. Smith has also promised to ignore anything the courts have to say on the matter, and just what else might happen if Alberta gets stuck with an unelected Q-adjacent radical as premier. 

Mr. Kenney’s former Principal Secretary, Howard Anglin, recently ventured into the same territory, deconstructing Ms. Smith’s proposal in more colourful language.

Calling Ms. Smith’s Sovereignty Act idea “a scam,” Dr. Anglin suggested anyone who believes it would work is acting like a circus sideshow visitor who looked at “a mangy monkey-torso artfully attached to half a dried fish” and saw a mermaid. 

Ensuring everyone understood what he had in mind, Dr. Anglin called Ms. Smith’s big idea “baloney, bunk, balderdash, and bunkum. Hooey, hogwash, and hokum. Flim-flam, tommyrot, poppycock, and fiddle.” 

Like Mr. Kenney, Dr. Anglin argued that having a premier peddling constitutional snake oil like the Alberta Sovereignty Act isn’t going to benefit the province’s economy. “In politics, scams like the Alberta Sovereignty Act have real-life consequences. If Smith or any other leader is foolish enough to follow this fraudulent scheme, real jobs will be lost and real people will suffer. It will be the Alberta Suicide Act.”

Meanwhile, though, Ms. Smith has momentum. MLAs previously committed to other candidates to replace Mr. Kenney or just biding their time to see who would emerge as the likely winner are starting to move to her camp. 

Former Kenney principal secretary Howard Anglin (Photo: Screenshot of CTV video).

It seems likely this will have the biggest impact on the campaign of former finance minister Travis Toews, the accountant, rancher and neophyte politician from Beaverlodge who at the start of the race had the apparent imprimatur of Mr. Kenney and the UCP establishment. 

Back then, Mr. Toews looked steady, if a little dull. Now, apparently, UCP members just find him dull. His campaign feels a bit like a ship taking on water while still tied up at the dock. 

A week ago, Nathanael Glubish, minister of Service Alberta, became the second UCP MLA to drop his endorsement of Mr. Toews and defect to Ms. Smith. 

The first was Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn, best known for being temporarily kicked out of the UCP Caucus after his mid-pandemic Mexican winter holiday in 2021.

Other UCP Caucus members now openly supporting Ms. Smith include Labour and Immigration Minister Kaycee Madu, former agriculture minister Devin Dreeshen (who left cabinet after allegations of drinking and tolerance of sexual harassment in his office last fall), Airdrie-Cochrane MLA Peter Guthrie, Lethbridge-East MLA Nathan Neudorf, and Calgary-Falconridge MLA Devinder Toor. 

Meanwhile, early this month Airdrie MLA Angela Pitt quit her role as former transportation minister Rajan Sawhney’s campaign chair, according to one theory because she risked losing her nomination to Smith supporters in her riding angry about Ms. Sawhney’s sharp criticism of the Sovereignty Act idea. One of the scheme’s authors is former Wildrose Party Airdrie MLA Rob Anderson, now Ms. Smith’s campaign manager. 

Facing the challenge of coming up with a Plan B quickly if they hope to stave off a disaster of the Danielle Smith variety, Mr. Kenney must be kicking himself for not sticking to his vow before his leadership review that 51 per cent would be good enough for him to remain as premier.

CORRECTION: Howard Anglin, Mr. Kenney’s former Principal Secretary, first published his deconstruction of Ms. Smith’s Sovereignty Act on July 13. Incorrect information appeared in an earlier version of this story. DJC

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28 Comments

      1. Au contraire, David. You have stumbled upon Jason’s real method of transportation! This is why he never learned how to pump gas. Edmonton’s bike-on-sidewalk bylaw exempts small diameter wheeled bikes, so Jason doesn’t have to ride on the street until he is a little older.

      2. A blue bicycle for a boy. A pink bicycle for a girl. Just like gender roles in Kenney’s world. At least the messaging is consistent. Reference the award-winning essay about the dystopian future awaiting girls in Alberta. Oh, wait. That was conveniently removed from the government website before this ad campaign. I wonder why?

      3. Maybe Kenney decided to finally move out of the apocryphal basement and is house hunting.

        Now all he needs to find is a good Christian wife to finally make mom happy. If this one already comes with a tricycle for little Jason to be, bonus! Wheeee !!!!

  1. Preparing for his return to Ottawa, Jason Kenney has donned the cloak of Capt. Canada and is ardently promoting national unity in Alberta. Kenney, who has made a career out of pointing the angry squirrels among his favoured UCP base, if now promoting Alberta as that undiscovered part of Canada, where Canadians from all walks of life can come and start their lives anew. Yes, Alberta is the undiscovered country yearning to be embraced. Come to Alberta and realize all your hopes and dreams in a land that cherishes diversity and hope — yes, hope.

    Meanwhile, Danielle Straitjacket, barring some kind of disaster, is destined to become the next premier, thanks to winning the support of the lunatics and the crazies who have longed to rule Alberta. Smith is going to sell the most insane, boneheaded policy ideas that are so loony, only the truly demented will go for them. It’s not about social stability; it all about breaking society and promoting FreeDUMB. This is the word that Danielle Smith and her ilk want. It was also Kenney’s warning as he headed for the exit.

    Kenney turns and says, “How do you like me now?” Who knew Premier Crying and Screaming Midget was going to look like the moderate? Strange days, indeed.

  2. The head honcho of the UCP is once again speaking with a forked tongue, and contradicting himself. He was also balking at the federal government for things he didn’t like, and here he is chastising Danielle Smith for acting similar to the way he has been. These pretend conservatives, and Reformers constantly prove how untrustworthy they really are. If given the chance, Danielle Smith will make a very big mess of our public education, and public healthcare in Alberta, following the same path that Ralph Klein did. Danielle Smith has greatly admired Ralph Klein. His policies were detrimental for Alberta, and the problems still exist, even after all these years. Even at the federal government level, we see Pierre Poliveire, fooling Canadians with his smooth talking ways, and they buy into his misconceptions, and lies. Pretend conservatives, and Reformers don’t create jobs, they destroy them, and they also ruin the essential public services that we all need. Their rich corporate friends are all they show concern for. How people are so easily fooled by them is baffling. We are definitely seeing something similar to the Social Credit Party, which Peter Lougheed tirelessly worked so hard to replace. Peter Lougheed also had a distaste for Reformers, because he saw the parallels to the Social Credit Party. If people are going to be fooled by Danielle Smith, or even any of these other UCP leadership candidates, and Pierre Poliveire, they will find out the hard way. Anyone who warns them gets mocked and ridiculed. Where’s the sense in that?

  3. Yes, Kenney does have a point here. Kooky, half baked plans to stir up hatred of the rest of the country sure aren’t going to attract the best and brightest people to move to Alberta. For those who know anything about Quebec, trying to emulate its separatist approach or worse is a bad idea. The moving vans from Montreal went the other way.

    Smith seems to have convinced many in the UCP party she is a real threat, despite her so far motley crew of MLA support. While her ideas are especially bad, they are really as pointed out, just an extreme continuation of the soon to be past party leaderships efforts to stir up anger against the rest of the country for political gain. Pointless referendum on equalization anyone?

    I do wonder with all the internal push back if the duplicitous Smith will win. If she does, I would not be surprised if she drops many of these crazy ideas as fast as possible. The only useful purpose they really serve is to get her elected. Based on past observation of her, and to the disappointment of those supporting her, she can sound reasonable for extended periods of time, at least until the mask eventually drops. None the less, the confusion and acrimony surrounding this will not benefit Alberta.

    Smith seems to thrive in confusion and acrimony, kind of like a pig in mud or like how Trump stirs up the base for his own benefit. Kenney’s sharp rebuke may only serve to reinforce their support for her. Perhaps the only effective purpose his statement really serves is for him to say I told you so later and for him to try wash his hand of this whole potential mess.

    1. Hi Dave, I agree with most of what you write, with the exception being your belief Danielle Smith will pivot to the centre if she wins the UCP leadership. She may pivot, but the populist playbook is to double-down on their ideas in the belief that this can foster the sort of chaos that represents – for populists – “winning conditions”.

      Reading the comments I see a lot of snide sarcasm toward Smith and Kenney. However, I worry that in equating the two we misunderstand the potential threat that Smith poses, and the difficulty this creates in building a broad coalition that could marginalize her views. Smith is a different challenge than Kenney, and I worry that she is capable enough and unprincipled enough that she could represent an existential threat to the Canadian federation.

      1. IMO if Smith is a threat to Canada it is not due to virtue on her part, but a lack of virtue on the part of Canada. A halfway healthy society would laugh someone out of the room who voiced any of her more outrageous absurdities.

  4. What a shame that Lord Jason the Worst didn’t tell folks separation, real or imaginary, was a Bad Thing—when he was running for King of Oilberduh in 2019. He made a half-hearted effort to walk back support for the Go-It-Alone crowd after he was elected king, but the damage was done. It’ll take at least two election cycles, provincial PLUS federal, to quiet down the manic mechanics of sovereignty-association.

    Duane Bratt had comments on Smith’s big plan to “free” Oilberduh from the evil clutches of Ottawa. He also commented on the wisdom of Kenney remaining premier until the UCP elect his replacement as party leader. (Spoiler alert: it isn’t wise at all.)

    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/opinion-kenney-smith-alberta-sovereignty-act-bratt-1.6551739

    Miz Smith isn’t coming across as any better that ol’ Jason. Her snarky put-down, amounting to “Don’t you dare ask questions!” shows her skin is even thinner than Jason’s. Unlike Jason, however, it seems Queen Dannie tends to slap back when somebody challenges her. Jason, you’ll recall, tends to sic his attack trolls on critics and hare off to Texas, or Europe.

    The only positive thing I see in this mess is that, thanks to the drawn-out “leadership” campaign, the whole country can see the sheer stupidity of Alberta’s radical right. How that’ll affect the next provincial election remains to be seen. Danielle’s obviously relying on the herd (or mob!) mentality effect to win both “Leader” and provincial elections. Make ‘em mad, whip ‘em into a frenzy, point ‘em at the “enemy” and promise to save ‘em. Then stand aside and enjoy the stampede.

    We’ll have to hope the two-thirds of the province that aren’t impressed will vote against Queen Dannie and her thundering herd. Otherwise, they’ll make Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump look like tripping on the carpet.

  5. Ms. Smith has about 6 months from her likely crowning as UCP leader to the calling of an election. Plenty of time for plenty of mischief. Table a budget chock full of goodies then dissolve the house to avoid questions about how we pay for it.

  6. That didn’t take long. Remember the headline,”New report calls Alberta job skills strategy ‘ill-advised”?

    https://globalnews.ca/news/8245703/alberta-post-secondary-budget-parkland-institute-report/

    Read more here:

    https://www.parklandinstitute.ca/higher_education_corporate_or_public

    It didn’t take long for Parkland Institute’s grim predictions to come true. Having pulled funding, sending universities and colleges to their doom, with Athabasca University the latest to be threatened with the axe, Alberta now finds itself with a skilled labor shortage. Who knew that a premier with insufficient understanding of PSE and jobs (having not completed PSE and having worked in politics all his adult life) would not understand the need to train and retain skilled workers. Now he’s begging skilled workers to come from away. Why would they want to do that?

    First the high school graduates started leaving because they couldn’t get the programs they wanted, or saw no future in Alberta once they did. The UCP were warned this would happen and it did. What a surprise. Kenney didn’t listen.

    The list of skilled workers driven out of the province by Kenney policies is long. A logical person might stop driving workers out of the province, and restore funding to battered PSIs. But no! Kenney goes out of province to tries to pick apples off another tree. Does he think the allure of seizing teachers’ pensions and threatening to seize Albertans’ Canada Pension Plan contributions will be enough to lure the best of the best here? Fund manager AIMCo loses money hand over fist (ahem, movie theatres in Europe) but isn’t that the Alberta Advantage? Take your hard-earned contributions and make that rabbit disappear?

    “Instead of being able to attract people we’d start to hemorrhage people,” said the premier. It’s a shame the man can’t see he already started that exodus.

    It’s a shame people read that award-winning essay telling the world that Alberta is a place where women should have multiple babies instead of careers and leave the jobs for men, and blah, blah, blah white replacement theory. So having shown women and immigrants, students and skilled workers what Alberta really is, why would any skilled workers from Vancouver and Toronto, many of whom are women and immigrants, want to come here?

    Wasn’t it just a short time ago that the Kenney government hired a consultant to tell Albertans that public schools should
    prepare boys to sell used cars? He was called “old man who tells at clouds”, like Abe Simpson. Maybe skilled workers don’t want their children to grow up in a place that doesn’t value their daughters or their sons.

    Wise leaders listen to experts instead of thinking they know everything. Jason Kenney does not. So here we are.

    But you know Kenney. He refuses to see the reality of the mess he created and will double down to make it worse. It’s always somebody else’s fault. He is the reviled leader who will not stop making Alberta worse.

  7. Lawyers warn that her plans will cost seniors their old age security payments, Canada pension plan payments, and their public health care benefits, why wouldn’t it? Yet we continue to see these mindless seniors believing every lie she feeds them and putting her in the lead to become leader of these phoney conservatives, just too damn dumb to understand how dangerous she is. I had a letter in the Calgary herald today pointing out how stupid this has all become.

  8. I just came back from visiting relatives in B.C. and they are certain young professionals in B.C. aren’t dumb enough to come to Alberta to watch these phoney conservatives kick professionals around like they are famous for doing. Trying to replace the ones they kicked out shows how stupid they are.

  9. I wonder how long it will take for Danielle Smith’s Sovereignty Act to inspire someone to use it as a defense for their own misdeed: “Your honour, since there was nothing coming, waiting for the light to change went against my personal interest, so I ran the red light.”

  10. “If the principle of the so-called Sovereignty Act were to be accepted by other Canadian provinces,” he warned, pausing for emphasis, “farewell pipelines!”

    …Is it just me, or did Jason Kenney just say out loud that no other province is willing to allow a pipeline through their jurisdiction?

  11. David, it’s not that kenney is not wrong. It’s more likely that he slipped up and forgot to tell a lie.
    In the absence of a lie, is the truth. I’m sure he won’t let that happen again.

  12. Pretty much a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

    1) “Lieutenant-Governor Salma Lakhani would almost certainly refuse to sign it, Mr. Kenney predicted”.

    Yes. Or she could force a general election. It is within the Lieutenant-Governor’s reserve powers. Might even be a better solution.

    2) And “if a lieutenant-governor were, in the unthinkable circumstance, to grant it Royal Assent, it would immediately be struck down by the courts.”

    I really doubt this would occur. In the hypothetical event of, it would be a race between the Supreme Court acting or the Governor General exercising the Queen’s prerogatives to replace the Lieutenant-Governor.

  13. All he and the ucpea have to do to get people to move here from BC and Ontario is to move there themselves. Let everyone know half are moving to BC and the other half to Ontario and will more than likely work in government. Then an NDP election in the spring and we will be able to rehire all the professional service providers the ucpea ran out of the province. Science could be really real again.

  14. Can’t imagine why Kenney is trying to attract trades people to Alberta when 10’s of thousands of union trades people are out of work. Maybe he wnts to really drive unions out of Alberta. The Kenney photo was clearly staged to make Kenney look like a real family man which he is definitely not.

  15. Hilarious to me that Kenney apparently thinks someone/anyone making good money in Vancouver or Toronto would want to move to Alberta.

    The ‘New Alberta Advantage’ is for politicians, not workers, and it states ‘if you play your cards right you can pillage Albertan society and tell the local yokels it’s all Trudeau’s fault.’

  16. I wonder how stupid Jason Kenney thinks we are? He just has to get even with RCMP for daring to investigate his party and the lies he is spreading is sickening. They can get more officers for less is one of them. Surveys prove that Albertans don’t want it but he won’t let is go he has to get even. I’m betting Albertans aren’t dumb enough to want a cheap poorly trained police force that they can’t rely on just to please Kenney when he’s the guy they want rid of. Local police officers have told me over the years that with all their world wide connections the RCMP have been a great help to them solving crimes. I bet Kenney doesn’t care about that.

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