Alberta’s New Democratic Party has refused to allow itself to get sucked into the vortex Government’s effort to fix its unfixable Sovereignty Act. 

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Nope, “this bill is beyond saving,” NDP Economic Development Critic Deron Bilous told a short and sparsely attended news conference in Edmonton this morning. “It must be revoked.”

Sounding rather like those moderate progressive conservatives who ran Alberta for so many years, Mr. Bilous’s news release began with the statement that “Alberta’s NDP stands with investors, job creators and workers against the chaos created by Danielle Smith’s job-killing Sovereignty Act and will not support amendments to the legislation.”

The Alberta Sovereignty within a United Canada Act, as Premier Smith’s government has absurdly called its signature first bill, is the United Conservative Party’s screw-up. It’s not for the NDP to try to salvage.  

Friends of the UCP have been parroting the party talking point that the NDP really ought to be a sport and suggest some amendments to Bill 1. That way the Opposition could own a piece of UCP’s colossal error and get to wear some of the egg that rightly belongs on Ms. Smith’s face. 

The NDP was not prepared to bite. “The absolute last thing we need right now is weeks of backtracking and clarifications,” said the Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview MLA who served as minister of economic development and trade during Rachel Notley’s NDP government. 

Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

“That just brings more uncertainty,” he continued, noting that the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers have all publicly fretted that the ASWAUCA would drive investors and workers out of Alberta. 

“It’s time to restore peace of mind for investors,” said Mr. Bilous, who does not plan to seek re-election in the next election. “It’s time to restore confidence in our laws and our economy.”

Therefore, he said, “we will not support undemocratic legislation that is already hurting our province’s economy and reputation.” If the UCP won’t drop it, he added, the NDP will revoke it if it forms government.

Meanwhile, it’s very hard to believe, as Premier Smith claimed on her Corus radio program Saturday, that her government never intended the legislation would give the UCP cabinet unlimited power to change laws without consulting the Legislature.

Nevertheless, Ms. Smith assured her radio listeners that the bill’s problems are just a matter of “awkward wording.”

As unlikely as it may seem that a Canadian provincial cabinet could be so egregiously incompetent it wouldn’t have guessed that voters and investors might get wound up about the replacement of the legislative oversight of cabinet decisions, a fundamental change in Canadian government, that’s more likely than the premier’s sloppy wording story.

Alberta Opposition Leader and former premier Rachel Notley (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Premier Smith herself introduced the bill. She had to have been briefed on its contents, even if she didn’t bother to read it. She knew what was in it. 

Not only was the bill’s intent clear to anyone who took the trouble to read the draft legislation, Justice Minister Tyler Shandro admitted in Ms. Smith’s presence that usurping the role of MLAs by letting cabinet act unilaterally was precisely the plan. 

Here’s a clip from a government news conference on the legislation last week:

Reporter: “We had a tech briefing with officials. We asked this question directly. We said that once the motion’s debated in the Legislature and the majority of MLAs vote on it, and then it goes to cabinet, and there’s directives within that motion, then the cabinet ministers have the ability to unilaterally, if they so choose, to change legislation. … We confirmed that over and over with officials. So can you just say yes or no, that’s correct, and if it’s not, explain why it’s not?”

Mr. Shandro: “That is correct.

A slide illustrating the process still on the government website shows the same thing. Its final point reads: “Cabinet, working with the relevant minister, can amend any enactments, including legislation, orders or regulations.” (Emphasis added.) 

So there is no question that this was precisely the intention of whoever drafted the legislation, and that elected officials understood it. It defies credulity that Ms. Smith and her briefers hadn’t read it.

The assumption must have been either that Albertans wouldn’t notice or that groups that normally line up to support Conservative governments – the business community, for example – would support it.

The UCP has a history of deceptive law-making, University of Alberta political scientist Jared Wesley pointed out, having used similar practices to push their curriculum, coal, and COVID policies.

That said, no one – not even the United Conservative Party MLA from Cow Flop-Gopher Creek – could have imagined that the Opposition would overlook the flaws in the ASWAUCA.

So the simplest and most likely conclusion is that someone persuaded Ms. Smith, or she persuaded herself, that this would actually fly with her supporters.

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47 Comments

  1. Yet we still have stupid seniors willing to support the word conservative and fight for their right to do whatever they want to us that’s how stupid they are. While Peter Lougheed told us to think like owners because all Albertans own the resources in this province, these fools hurl sarcastic comments at anyone who tries to defend our right to get our fair share of this wealth. They don’t care that we are being screwed out of our money, with their help. That’s how stupid they are. You certainly don’t see the people in Alaska and Norway being this stupid. I have visited both areas and talked to the people who were thrilled with what their oil wealth was doing for them.

    1. Here, here. They even dumped a premier who wanted a moderate change to royalties. This party has lost all progressive elements and is far right and extreme. Time to give them the boot!

  2. DJC, so the ad for today…
    Ask a vet..Dr Andy
    Pearl (assistant) : welcome, how can we help with your pet problem…
    type your message:
    okay….Dr Andy , our pet Premier seems to have ingested too much ivermectin, what would you recommend…
    too soon??
    and no I do not have a pet, so another algorithm gone wrong, unless it’s because of Skippy??hmm,

    Deep freeze in Alberta….I can’t even torment my B-in L, as I normally would, because of what’s going on there, he keeps saying May is coming…I’m sincerely hoping for all ,that that is actually a light….
    Keep those masks, oops, I mean scarves handy….

  3. “ So the simplest and most likely conclusion is that someone persuaded Ms. Smith, or she persuaded herself, that this would actually fly with her supporters.”

    Just saying anything Rob Anderson touches turns to the kind of contaminated manure you would not want to spread on your fields.

    1. Neil: I believe you’re right about Rob, especially with his “Free Alberta Strategy ” book with Barry Cooper and Derek From*..(Amazon… 2021) and considering that he and Danielle have been ,how shall I say, crossing paths since their wildrose days, or maybe the paths were going side by side all this time. And since FAS, is posting and reposting comments, my impression is that they are not in any way talking about “backing down “.
      IMHO, it’s hard to say if she is the lead,or just a useful front…..t’rump/kari ….they do like having a “well spoken ” media personality, to put out the message, no matter how whacko it is and then conveniently you have someone to throw under the bus if things don’t go right, she can always go back to her restaurant, plus you have to give him credit for staying in politics, but” behind the scenes ” , after the threats that came after his & Dani’s defection..
      https ://ctvnews.ca
      Alberta MLA says security boosted after …..

      *Fraser Institute….
      which, imo, has become synonymous with, let me see; conservatives, controversies, conflict, con’s …..must be one of the requirements on the resume`
      and Barry has some interesting connections.

  4. The UCP seems like a flailing person trying to grab onto whatever it can to save itself. It’s not surprising the opposition didn’t allow itself to get dragged into this mess, that is a good decision.

    I find it hard to believe Smith did not understand the very anti democratic elements of this bill. While she does a lot of dumb things, she does not seem like a totally unintelligent person. She at times sounds articulate, although she seems a bit full of herself and latches onto questionable things without enough scrutiny.

    Even the UCP seems to have given up on explaining why this anti democratic aspect of the bill was necessary and they sure haven’t said whose not so bright idea it was. However, it sounds like they will probably eventually find some bureaucrat to throw under the bus.

    So this disastrous aspect of their bill is like putting bitter poison in an already not so tasty dish. You only get one chance to make a good first impression and I suspect this badly drafted bill will only make voters more wary of it and the UCP’s intentions.

    This does not reflect well on Smith who has made this her key initiative. She had a couple of months to get this right. Yet again chaos and disaster follows in her wake. I suspect a number of her cabinet and MLAs will be quietly, but now more urgently making plans not to run again, if they weren’t already.

  5. That head of iceberg lettuce with very sharp teeth is starting to rot on the counter. That’s the thing with lettuce: if it’s too hot, it can’t get out of the kitchen.

  6. The problem with “awkward wording” in legislation is that when it becomes law, there’s little to nothing that can be done about it. Or, perhaps pooh-pooh the weird in the ASWAUCA is just another distraction — don’t look at the details, because Ottawa is the real enemy.

    As much as Smith tries to gaslight, she can’t diminish what she and Shady Shandro said several days ago, that the ASWAUCA WILL give provincial entities the POWER to OVERRIDE federal laws and regulations.

    I recall years and years ago, Alberta fossil and right-wing kook-burger, Dead Byfield, declared in one of his opinion pieces, in the execrable Alberta Report, that Ottawa is like a king with “no muskets”. In other words, Alberta can do what it likes, because Ottawa has no army to crush the opposition in Alberta. Then, Byfield went on some rambling tangent about “don’t tread” or some other dollar-a-day dementia.

    I suppose there are some among the crazies in Alberta who want a shooting war with Ottawa, and that’s perfectly fine. These days, in lieu of standing armies, so called “security consultants” can be commissioned to do the extreme dirty work that national militaries cannot. I can imagine that sending a sizable force of mercenaries into Alberta to restore order and crush opposition is a workable plan. Oh, and once someone says, “there is no such thing as a war crime” the tone of the conflict is decided.

    Mo’ popcorn.

  7. I can only conjecture that delusional Danielle is thinking that she is south of the 49th parallel, where friendly amendments and bi-partisan efforts were common. Until American politics became hopelessly polarized that is. Such efforts are not common to the British Parliamentary system. His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition is there to oppose, offer an alternative program, and if needed be ready to form a government. They are also electoral gladiators looking to achieve power. Nothing under the British Parliamentary system suggests that the opposition come to the aid of a feckless governing party. I wonder who exactly is advising this shambolic collection of “leaders” at the centre of the UCP? An astrologer? Danielle’s dog? (Mackenzie King had pretty good luck consulting his dog.)

  8. Bill 1 is intended to put UCP back in government. None of this is accidental. Even the stupidest politician knows you have to get reelected and that starts day 1 after you first get there. Healthcare and everything is going down the tube but that can all be blamed some way on the feds and particularly on JT. The worse it gets the better because that will be more ammunition for the fight I expect with Ottawa. The ND have made their position clear. Being unwilling to support Bill 1 will be turned against them as traitors to Alberta. What’s at stake? Well the JK government was willing to give coal away at $1 a ton. The oil industry didn’t miss that and they will want an equal treatment after all they are past the royalty holidays and its going to be a real burden when the price oil crashes again and it will. Alberta has to vote them next year! 4 years from now will be to late because none of it will be yours anymore.

    1. Fred, you’re probably right about the intent behind Smith’s Bill 1. However, it seems sure to appeal to True Believers and not to anyone else. Smith and her backers (e.g. the “Free Alberta Strategy” authors and “Take Back Alberta” crowd) seem badly out of touch with majority opinion in Alberta. The cost of living is way more important than picking useless fights with Ottawa. (UCP trolls, that’s your cue—with apologies to our host for the frustration of reviewing their comments….)

      1. Mike: I have a policy, now increasingly strictly enforced, of not posting comments containing personal remarks about the original poster, defamations, threats, obscene language (c-word, f-word, etc.), obviously false claims, or that use other people’s names deceptively. I recognize serial posters of this kind of garbage and don’t even read their comments beyond the first line or two before I delete them. Almost all of the comments that need to be deleted for these reasons come from folks who object to what I or my commenters have to say. As a result, it is quite likely that a number of anticipated responses to your comment above will never appear. By the way, those who take it upon themselves to send abuse to me personally by email are immediately blocked and their missives go straight to my trashcan without passing before my eyes. Occasionally responses that make worthwhile observations or raise reasonable objections but also commit some of the sins mentioned above, will be edited to make their thoughts suitable for publication. DJC

          1. Mike: I wouldn’t worry about it. Most of the comments here by people who disagree with my blogs are by people who nevertheless disagree civilly. The odd one slips through, for one reason or another. Fairness requires, though, that if someone takes a shot, they get a chance to respond. DJC

        1. Over my years of reading and commenting on your blog, every so often you tell us about the nasty ass stuff morons send your way. Being human it can’t help but wear you down. ‘Course as a newspaperman at the Lord Almost Calgary Herald in the nasty old days, growing a thick hide was a necessity. Obviously no different now.

  9. The obvious shortcomings of ASWAUCA as Bill 1 might be intentional in order to deflect attention away from the UCP agenda to attack Alberta healthcare, public education, PSE and existing social programs. Smith may be hoping that by focusing on Ottawa as public enemy number one, Albertans will not pay attention to the mess her UCP plans to create in Alberta’s backyard.

  10. 2 little bits of interest,
    1. Grand Chief, speaking to Rosemary Barton- playing phone tag with Danielle, because he has serious concerns, especially since neither he or any other indigenous leaders were consulted about the ” Sovereignty act “….waiting for developments there..which could prove rather interesting.

    2.As intro to her show, news clip from the hill…what caught my attention- Garnet Genuis, talking about over reach…and because it was a new character in the play, I was curious, so Google search…yada yada, and just the basics, so I have my go-to, when spidey senses are working….type in name/controversy and voila, amazing how often it works. Came across an article by DJC in Rabble from 2020….
    so Garnet , an Alberta MLA, is running ads on the buses in Vancouver, oh not anti abortion, just pro family.,more questions….so did anyone ever delve into the fine points of that over reach ? Must be the same cell that Skippy is so comfortable with in Vancouver..

    and just a side bar, Danielle is still listed as president of AEG, and what with the CBC*/crypto trip to Texas, were there some kind of deals made that would be affected by federal regulations that DS doesn’t want Alberta to follow….when in doubt, follow the money, especially with the capitalist/corporations, sometimes you have to look for the tree in the forest….
    I remember how surprised my neighbor back east was when I told him that I had come across one of the King’s pine trees, it was a glorious, huge, very old tree, but he asked how someone from Alberta knew about them, I told him I read alot and mostly about history….and almost, to me, Alberta and alot of politicians in Canada right now, are writing it in real time, and it’s not a good narrative. What ever happened to reading about history and not making the same mistakes?? Oh, sorry, ” I forgot of whom we were speaking “…..never mind.

    1. Randi-lee As much as I hate to stand up for anything regarding the vile Mr Genuis, I do have to note that you got his first name wrong. It is Garnett with two t’s.

      I notice as it is about the only thing I share with him – and I had my name before he did. I had to argue with teachers and administrators through most of my school years as adults insisted that my name could only have one ‘t’.

      1. Northern Loon, my apologies, and I am usually very careful about getting the spelling correct, but I’m pretty sure CBC had it as Garnet,..(don’t hold me to that), but then Rosemary said he was from Saskatchewan, until someone whispered in her ear, that it Fort Saskatchewan …and going by the people responsible for the headlines, on all 3 MSM, they either don’t use auto correct, or they trust it without verifying, gee auto correct isn’t always right, which to my amusement is always sending my B-in-L ,to the unprintable, our family now uses “SFAC “…with the word we wanted. Besides, since he was born in January, the garnet is his gemstone, so that’s my sorry excuse for missing the tt…

    1. Ah yeah the carbon tax that kept that money in alberta, went to pioneering tech research to get us off the boom bust cycle and had a rebate for low income Albertans. Good job UCP now we just have the federal carbon tax instead, slow clap, a real achievement.

  11. AP readers will recall J Kenny handing out ear plugs in the legislature. Cooperation my Donkey.
    With regard to Oil prices Chevron is being given US permission to export Venezuelan heavy oil to Gulf Coast Refiners who I expect refine tar sands oil.

  12. She still has a radio show? Shades of Bible Bill.

    P.S. Sad to report passing of Butter who was accidentally left on the stovetop while the cookies were baking. In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to the Canadian Flour & Shortening Foundation.

  13. Smith didn’t intend to grab power away from the Legislature? Sure, Danielle. Now pull the other one. Even Tyler Shandro knows better; or maybe he didn’t read the email about the new talking point. (Or maybe Shandro regrets joining Smith’s gong show cabinet and has given up covering for her.)

    Smith has a supreme talent for ignoring the blindingly obvious. It’s costing her what little credibility she had. Whoever persuaded her to run for UCP leader (why would she give up a high-paid job as a lobbyist to herd UCP burros?) must be losing faith. Smith’s flailing attempts at “explanation” will discredit her, the UCP and the Alberta separatist-wannabes who are backing her.

  14. Doing the same thing and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. So why does the ndp choose to be insane? The deal from Ottawa won’t get any better in the future unless you force the issue.

    1. Ah Brett Larson once again makes a bold claim without evidence or even articulating what he’s talking about. What do you mean ? Transfer payments ? We’ve been over this to death, those are based on federal income taxes, the only way around it would be if albertans stopped paying federal taxes, which is a popular notion with alberta libertarians, but an entirely nonsensical one. All this ridiculous bill would result in is Ottawa withholding funds, how is that a better deal for albertans ?

    2. Bret Larson: Ottawa isn’t the problem, Alberta is. When you have pretend conservatives and Reformers doing the exact opposite of what Peter Lougheed did, it makes things worse. The UCP keeps on doing the most priciest shenanigans, which end up costing us billions and billions of dollars. The Alberta PCs were doing the same thing, before that. The blame Ottawa, or blame someone else game has to come to an end.

    3. Bret: Are the NDP holding power at the moment? Whose responsible for the tabling of an act which could be described as insane? What does the inner fiscal conservative in you think of your tax money being spent on upcoming court cases to defend this bill which are guaranteed to be lost by Alberta? Wouldn’t it be better if Ms Smith were to call an election with her sovereign issue as an election issue? If she wins then she has a mandate to negotiate with Ottawa, correct? Even the PQ in Quebec didn’t just unilaterally declare sovereignty within Canada, they had a referendum on it.

  15. In the spirit of Peter Lougheed, can we get some bumper stickers that say “I own Alberta oil and gas!” And along with posting the price of a barrel of oil, Alberta should post the $ Albertans, Norwegians and Alaskans receive from each barrel sold. Seems like a project for a website developer. Perhaps it would help our fortunes (pun intended) to think in terms of how much we sell our oil each day to companies that export it or refine it. Think like an owner!

    1. Survivor: Our oil really isn’t ours anymore, due to Ralph Klein giving it all away to oil companies from other countries. We own nothing. Also, Ralph Klein made the oil royalty rates we had so bad, that we lost an astronomical amount of money. Hundreds of billions of dollars is gone.

  16. Last Thursday was our senior Christmas party with 65 of our friends. On Wednesday I came down with a bad cold so we didn’t go to the party . On Saturday my wife came down with a cold and a fever and today we have both tested positive for COVID, which proves how easy it is to create a nightmare and ruin things for others. I don’t know where I got it but it could have been a nightmare for our friends in their late 80s and early 90s and thank God we didn’t go to that party. Hope all of you are feeling well and be careful of large groups in small spaces.

  17. Just as Tyler’s moustaches looks more like gravity than the probably-intended gravitas, Danielle’s supporters look more like the choir than anything of psephological significance—polls and appearance suggesting they are far from constituting anything as awkward as democracy. You know, if you’re right, you’re right—and if you’re way right, that’s obviously sufficient, a fortiori, to ignore the rule of law, democracy, or even common sense. At least that’s one way to rationalize the asswas.ca—or whatever the incantation for Alberta Sovereignty is in this dot-com age.

    It’s truly remarkable: despite knowing exactly who roundly dismisses or denounces Smith’s primitive act, now a large and growing chorus, it’s still unclear how many UCP MLAs should be included, they having given up trying to explain it. But do I hear gentle humming of Donovan’s hit single, “Fly Trans-Guv Airlines (Gets You There on Time)”—even thought time itself is in question: next May or, maybe, next next May? My guess is at least some of them will do a closely calculated Waylon Jennings and give up their seats just before takeoff. Until then, crickets…

    The proportion of supporters appears psephologically insignificant in any case, even if the UCP caucus were unanimously behind Darnielle Smith’s high-school federal science project.

    “Awkward wording” is a trap the NDP is wise to avoid stepping into: it’s simply too suspicious that a cult of conspiracy theorists that can decipher constitutional ‘loopholes’ which allow it to ‘legitimately’ overthrow a popularly elected government, legitimize confederacy in a federation, hail constitutional Sodom of Kabbalah, and define ‘freedom’ as an opportune time to sabotage official measures in the bight of emergency would hand in homework this dog-eaten. Words are magic and, if you agree, well, that’s the end of it.

    Danielle isn’t concerned about getting her party to the promised land as she descends Sinai—just so long’s it takes two tablets and calls her in the morning. What, exactly, they want to call her remains awkward, indeed.

    1. Scotty: In this case I don’t think Tyler can be accused of seeking gravitas. Even he must know that’s impossible. I think he was just engaging in some Movember fund-raising, which is a point in his favour. We’ll know that’s the case if it’s gone the next time he appears in a new photo. DJC

  18. Watching a dangerous nutcase operate Alberta on a mandate given to her by something like 2% of the voting populace reminds me of JT justifying reneging on his mandate to enact electoral reform by claiming that changing our electoral system would allow a bunch of dangerous nutcases to get in power.

  19. Okay, so now it looks like Danielle Smith has decided to walk back ASWAUCA … again.

    This time, the only thing that didn’t change in the Act was its title. Apart from that, the so-called effort to put Ottawa in its place has all its teeth pulled and its potency effectively neutered. What else is left of this cornerstone legislation behind Smith’s leadership bid?

    Though Smith did say something to the effect of ‘At least I’m trying to destroy PMJT’, I’m not sure how many in her base of support are going to stick with her if she’s going to keep walking back her positions. At some point, they are going to call her a chicken and walk away, in search of someone crazier.

  20. To suggest that the bill is bad because of “awkward wording” reflects an astounding level of ignorance about how laws are written.

    There is a group of public servants somewhere in the bowels of the bureaucracy known as legislative drafters. They are the ones who actually put together all the words that meet the formal constitutional requirements, such as “His Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of”, etc. and so forth. Every word in bill or a regulation — because those folks also draft regulations and Orders-in-Council as well as legislation — is purposeful and has meaning, and is parsed thoroughly to ensure it means exactly what it is intended to mean.

    So she can’t say that with any hope of credibility.

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