Alberta Sovereignty Act Would Destroy Canada as a Federal State

I have to admit, when I first heard about Alberta’s proposed Sovereignty law, I was initially sympathetic.

After all, Albertans and British Columbians and Saskatchewanians ALL have legitimate gripes and grievances against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the Liberal federal government: on pipelines, carbon taxes, health care funding … and the obvious double standard on so many issues when it comes to treatment of the West, especially compared to Quebec.

In fact, just yesterday a Blog reader sent me a link to a Toronto Sun article outlining how La Belle Province is getting a Special Deal from Ottawa to delay increasing its Carbon tax. Read it and weep:

And I have ranted more than a few times about how ALL our federal “leaders” have just paid lip service to criticizing the latest outrageous LAWS passed in Quebec targeting observant religious minorities and restricting even more the rights of English-speaking Quebecois. (

So I do understand the sentiments and resentments of Albertans … and so many others of us out West.

But the Alberta Sovereignty Act proposed by recently-designated new Premier Danielle Smuth would emasculate the federal government and laws so much, it would destroy Canada as a federal state.

Because if Alberta adopts it, and assumes major new powers for itself to ignore federal legislation, so would other provinces (not just Quebec!).

You can read about the basics here:

However, I believe the very basic premise of the Act is the danger: that the Alberta government would be able to pick and choose which federal LAWS it will obey and which it will just ignore … according to news reports … “any federal policy, law or program it deems harmful to Alberta.”

That could be ANYTHING!

Not only that, under the proposal, the Alberta government (Cabinet or in changes coming later this week, the Legislature) would also be able to ORDER municipalities, government agencies, hospitals, school boards, even police forces NOT to obey or enforce specific Federal laws or acts.

How do you RUN a country like that? How do you HAVE a country like that?

Canada would have a system under which a Federal government passes NATIONAL legislation in the House of Commons, gets it through the Senate, has it receive Royal Assent … and then the Law could be just totally ignored by a “Sovereign” province?

And, of course, each “Sovereign” province would pick and choose which National laws it will obey … or ignore.

Even if the Laws deal with responsibilities and jurisdictions that fall under federal purvue under the Constitution.

Ridiculous! Ludicrous! Totally unworkable! And I’d bet unconstitutional!

Yet the damage that would be done to the country in the many years this would take to go through the Courts would be crippling.

Not even the previous separatist governments and nationalists now in power in Quebec ever came up with a “selective” Sovereignty Act, under which they would order provincial organizations NOT to follow or enforce federal laws.

They knew, and used, the Notwithstanding Clause of the existing Constitution (which is bad enough as it is!) to invoke/apply special powers in Quebec. Of course, Alberta also has the power to do that too on issues of provincial jurisdiction.

I believe the Sovereignty Act is just an attempt to bait Trudeau and the Liberals in Ottawa into a fight as Albertans prepare to the polls in a provincial Election next May 29.

And frankly, it’s kind of sickening that any politician from any province would inflict dangerous legislation on a province and the country to stir up division and discord in a bid for votes.

Harv Oberfeld

(Follow @harveyoberfeld on Twitter for FREE First Alerts to new postings on this Blog. No spam …just notices of all new topics up for discussion.)

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10 Responses to Alberta Sovereignty Act Would Destroy Canada as a Federal State

  1. Chuck says:

    Scary piece of legislation …. however, she is standing up for Albertans, but the wrong way. A previous Premier by name of Peter Lougheed also stood up for Albertans but in a totally different way … interesting to see what happens in the next Alberta election …

    (Response: Premiers should stand up for their provinces: nothing wrong with that. But it is going way too far for any provincial government to say they will refuse to obey federal laws ..even those clearly under federal jurisdiction … and even order health, school even police agencies in that province to refuse to not enforce or follow federal rules. Chaos! h.o)

  2. D. M. Johnston says:

    What we see in Alberta is the Americanization of the Canadian politic.

    For too long Canadian politicians have shunned away from the hard questions and instead, paid an updated version of “Dane Geld” in order to stay elected.

    Abetted by Trudeau’s fantasy post national society, Canada is being slowly fragmented into small groups, easily picked off by those who would like to see Canada’s demise.

    We are electing “nutters” to run the provinces and the country, because the politcal parties insist in running “nutters”, which in turn, turns off the voters, who now see very little difference between politcal wannabes and instead do not vote at all.

    I just shake my head at what is happening in this once great country, but the Canada of my past is no more, rather the country has tuned into a massive ponzi scheme to benefit only a small majority of its citizens, with the rest of us are ignored and insulted.

    (Response: I sense many Canadians are frustrated or turned off by our current political reality, but hopefully not as cynical as you. I hope you are not correct in saying ” the Canada of my past is no more”: maybe some of what we have lost will come back: like politicians who keep their promises, leaders/ministers who stepped aside/resigned when under a cloud …or leaders who understood they have NO PUBLIC MANDATE when picked by their party to replace a Premier who resigned … and realized they govern in a DEMOCRACY and MUST seek the public’s approval/endorsement within months of being anointed. h.o)

  3. Not Sure says:

    I don’t get it either Harvey.

    You said this

    Canada would have a system under which a Federal government passes NATIONAL legislation in the House of Commons, gets it through the Senate, has it receive Royal Assent … and then the Law could be just totally ignored by a “Sovereign” province?

    How do you RUN a country like that? How do you HAVE a country like that?

    You don’t have to look any further than the US where state rights are sacrosanct. If I understand their situation, the just passed federal law on same sex marriage just means that a state has to recognize a marriage that took place in a state where the marriage is considered legal. The state itself doesn’t have to recognize a marriage that takes place within its borders. Similar to abortion. The supreme court overturned Roe v Wade but states can determine their own laws regarding legality and whether it is offered or not and under what restrictions.

    Provinces do not have near the power states do. I prefer our system but Americans seem to like theirs.

    (Response: I believe the Parliamentary system, for the most part, is better than the American system. But under Smith’s Sovereignty Act, we wouldn’t have much of a federal or national system left: the central government would be almost powerless, even in areas of its own jurisdiction, if a province could de jure and de facto just “veto” it. It is lunacy. h.o)

  4. John Kinder says:

    The following interview is worth a look-see:

    Alberta Premier Danielle Smith Answers Questions About the ASA

  5. Gilbert says:

    I understand that Albertans are frustrated. They don’t like the policies of the federal government. The Sovereignty Act is unconstitutional, though. If every province had a similar law, Canada wouldn’t function properly. I suspect it’s a strategy by the premier to win votes and the next provincial election.

    (Response: Clearly an election maneuver, but remember, many politicians willingly sacrifice truth and what’s best for their constituency …IF they can hit a nerve and win votes. h.o.)

  6. Stu de Baker says:

    The interview linked by John Kinder is very interesting, thanks John.

    The interviewer (who is he?) is very well up to the task and on the surface I thought Danielle Smith was well prepared. And that’s the rub. She held my interest and it is easy for me to see how she would appeal to many Albertans, even BCers and Western Canadians and she is far from the first to appeal to the lazy ones, of which there are very big numbers. Like it or not, she is very articulate and makes a compelling case for sticking it to Ottawa.

    Few people go to the depth of HO or the interviewer; constitutionality and the law put most to sleep.

    Interesting times ahead.

    (Response: As I indicated in my Blog piece, I am actually sympathetic to many Albertans’ feelings about the federal government … especially in view of the spoiled brat federal treatment of Quebec. And you are right: most people don’t look at the in depth implications of the Sovereignty Act. But I have noticed many business groups and investment orgs and even other Conservative politicians and even voters are starting to realize how unworkable it would be, so she has to find a way to back down…without offending some of her base, who DO like it. h.o)

  7. Keith says:

    I very much agree with you Harvey that the “ spoiled brat” model of Quebec is now coming home to roost.

    Coincidence or not in the timing, Saskatchewan is in the process of bring in the Saskatchewan First Act which seems more narrowed on natural resources and environmental issues, unlike the Alberta act which at first blush is undefined and wide in scope.

    Now First Nations are adding their sceptical voices,

    A couple of lines struck me in the reporting;

    “ In the bill, the United Conservative Party (UCP) government promises to follow court rulings and the Constitution, but said it would be up to the federal government to sue the province to resolve disputes instead of the other way around.”

    Meanwhile in Ontario: Doug Ford in Jan 2019 along with Kenney, Palliser, Moe and Scheer were the “ resistance” on the cover of McLean’s, but since then Doug has seen the light in dealing with the Feds and Trudeau, and almost weekly there is another announcement of the Feds dumping money into Ontario and all is rosy. That should be a model the leaders of the base serving leaders should look at, not the same old fight with Ottawa routine that hasn’t got previous premiers anywhere provincially, but who cares,? stirring up the base gets them in again. This time it’s the Fight with Ottawa act, last time, a pick up truck and a cowboy hat for Kenney.

    (Response: Quebec’s using the notwithstanding clause to trample/override human rights of minorities and especially English-speaking Canadians in that province set a precedent. Trudeau/Liberal government should have challenged those racist laws in Court for violating not only the Constitution but restricting/denying certain specific individuals’ liberties under the Charter of Rights as well. Now others are on to that idea and think they could use a provincial Sovereignty Act … not for cultural reasons … but economic and possibly even to override criminal laws they don’t like. A country cannot exist very long if provinces can veto all kinds of national legislation and basically disempower the national government. h.o.)

  8. Edgar says:

    There is a very interesting case being argued in front of the Supreme Court today and tomorrow December 8,. The outcome could have a major impact on Federal Provincial relationships and if the court rules in favour of the Federal Government and interpretes the arguement beyond childcare the ruling could then impaact other policy areas such as Health Care.

    The Attorney General of Quebec is challenging the constitutionality of portions of An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Metis children, youth and families. According to information on the case from the Canadian Constitution Founation the Act establishes a “national standards” framework for Indigenous child and family services; and recognizes a right of Aboriginal self-government in relation to child and family services. No problem with that. Quebec argues that sections dealing with national standards are invalid notably because they are inconsistent with Canada’s federal structure and the system of responsible government because the federal government cannot require a province to implement its law unless the province consents. The Federal Government cannot direct the provincial executive and public service.

    According to the CCF the federal government could have enacted this legislation and then created a federal body to implement their own law. It appears as well that the federal government could have consulted with the province and asked them to consent to implementing federal law. Something they did not do. The arguement is that federal government cannot coerce the provinces into operationalizing a federal law.

    It is thought that the outcome and interpretation by the Court could have major implications for Federal and Provincial relations going forward and impact the Alberta Sovereignty Act. Trudeau, is not that popular in Quebec as he is viewed as centralizer, of which his actions seem to support.

    If you are so inclined the court arguements can viewed at

    • Steve Cooley says:


      Unexplained abbreviations – CCF the fore runner of the current New Democratic Party (NDP). It is obvious that the use of CCF in this essay does not refer to the NDP of the past. The next time follow the name Canadian Constitution Foundation with (CCF).

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