Alberta Finance Minister Jason Nixon says the Alberta sovereignty bill put forward by United Conservative Party leadership candidate Danielle Smith is “very problematic” for the party and would be impossible to implement.
On Wednesday, Nixon also said he doubts such legislation — which seeks to allow Alberta to opt out of any specific federal law or policy that goes against its interests — will be passed by the legislature.
“I would caution anyone who wants to lead our party against over-promising that we know cannot be delivered,” Nixon said, adding that he had not spoken to Smith directly about the idea.
Nixon, the government House leader, said there were three “major problems” with the law: it would break the law, it would scare off investors and shake up the market, and it is not possible to hold on.
Finance Minister and Alberta Government House Leader Jason Nixon said UCP leadership candidate Danielle Smith’s proposal for an Alberta sovereignty act, as described , would not be passed by the Legislative Assembly #ableg pic.twitter.com/syEhj4EbXA
“I think Albertans are very frustrated with the federal government right now. So am I. But going around and telling Albertans that you can accomplish something that you can’t accomplish is very problematic in the long run for our gone,” Nixon said.
“Our province and the governments of our province have been fighting this fight for a very long time, and presenting to Albertans in any way that there is a magic bullet that the legislature could pass tomorrow that would somehow make all of these problems go away is not is not factual, and that is what I urge caution on now,” Nixon said.
In a statement to CBC News, Smith said his bill “will empower the Alberta Legislative Assembly to deny the application of any specific federal government law or policy that violates Alberta’s provincial rights under 92 of the Constitution or the Alberta Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
Danielle Smith says her Alberta Sovereignty Act would allow MPs to vote freely on every federal law that her government says infringes on Alberta’s provincial rights. #ableg pic.twitter.com/ApC6jbOMDY
She added that the law would only be used after a free vote by all members of the legislature on whether to use it and how it will be used to oppose a federal law.
“I guess such a vote would pass by a good margin,” Smith said.
Law is unconstitutional and illegal, says political scientist
Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt agrees with Nixon’s assessment of Smith’s proposed act.
“It would be unconstitutional, it would be illegal. It would lead to a risky investment climate in Alberta,” Bratt said.
“These are promises that can be made but will never come true and are impossible,” he said.
Intervention in the leadership race
Bratt also found it remarkable that Nixon, a senior party member, intervened directly in the leadership race at the deadline for candidates to register to compete for the party’s top spot.
“We are seeing a real disconnect between one of the UCP’s top leadership contenders and the current UCP government,” Bratt said.
The Alberta Sovereignty Act is a key part of Smith’s platform.
“We are seeing a major political proposal, by what could be seen as one of the frontrunners in the leadership race, being directly attacked by a senior cabinet minister in the Kenney government.”
I wondered when we were going to see a big disconnect between the current UCP government and the proposals of the UCP leadership candidates. Jason Nixon nixing Smith’s Sovereignty Act (his first agenda) is such a moment.
Nixon said he had yet to endorse any leadership candidates, but then said it was a “great pleasure” to serve with former finance minister Travis Toews.
“I think he is the best candidate to lead this party.”
UCP members will choose a new leader to replace Jason Kenney in October after a postal vote.