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Tag: Bill 1

Alberta faces uncertain battle against Bill C-21

Speaking with southern Alberta reporters Friday, Tyler Shandro condemned C-21 as “a gigantic mistake” and “an attack on the way of life for folks … particularly in rural Alberta.”

Strong words aside, the minister struggled to come up with specific countermeasures.

Shandro hinted at using Alberta’s Sovereignty Act (Bill 1) against C-21. Premier Danielle Smith promised her supporters during the United Conservative Party’s leadership race last summer that the act would empower the legislature to ignore federal laws the province deemed harmful to Albertan interests.

“Now that Bill 1 has passed … we’ve asked for folks to take a look and provide us with suggestions,”  Shandro said Friday. “Maybe there are opportunities for resolution in the house in 2023.”

But the act can only direct provincial bodies not to enforce targeted federal laws. It cannot compel individual Albertans to do the same.

“I think that’s why we’re also looking at a number of initiatives that don’t involve the Sovereignty Act,” Shandro qualified.

 

 

“There are things that we can do now to move quickly, and stuff we can learn from what’s happening in Saskatchewan,” where, Shandro said, the legislature in Regina is working on a constitutional challenge to Ottawa’s proposed gun buyback program. 

Alberta is already pursuing six applications for judicial review of the federal cabinet’s decision in May 2020 to ban 1,500 types of guns. Bill C-21 seeks to toughen gun restrictions through a host of amendments to the Firearms Act.

Recent amendments by Paul Chiang, Liberal MP for the Ontario riding of Markham-Unionville, would significantly add to the ban by prohibiting any gun capable of taking a magazine containing more than five rounds. This would effectively ban all magazine-loading rifles, as well as many types of shotguns.

Guns that shoot with a force of more than 10,000 joules or that have a bore of two centimetres or more would also be banned.

Shandro said the Liberals were “playing politics,” misleading Canadians by purporting to show that legally obtained guns were driving violent crime.  

“I think we know that, anecdotally, we have a sense or an intuition that that’s not the case,” he said.

 

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A May 2022 report by Statistics Canada shows that gun violence in 2020 accounted for less than three per cent of violent crime nationally. 

But the report shows that the per capita rate of gun crime in Alberta’s rural south jumped by 31 per cent between 2019 and 2020. Firearms were present in 264 violent crimes reported to regional police detachments for that year, accounting for roughly 4½ per cent of violent crime, or a rate of 54 incidents per 100,000 people outside metropolitan centres. 

For comparison, regional violent crime was overwhelmingly driven by physical force and threats in the same period, with police finding no weapons at all at just over 4,500 incidents. That number accounted for just over 75 per cent of all violent crime reported to regional police. 

Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nunavut had the sharpest increases in police-reported gun crime dating back to 2009, the report showed. 

Guns were used in 37 per cent of investigated homicides in Canada in 2020, but the report notes that this figure was skewed by the April 2020 gun massacre in Portapique, N.S., that killed 22 people. The shooter’s guns were illegal because he did not have a possession and acquisition licence as per the Firearms Act.

 

 

Handguns were the most common weapon used in Canadian gun murders dating back to 2009. Gun crime was more associated with rifles and shotguns in rural parts of the country, according to the report. 

There are no available statistics to show the origins of guns used in violent crime.

For more information on gun violence in Canada, consult “Trends in firearm-related violent crime in Canada, 2009 to 2020” on Statistics Canada’s website, www12.statcan.gc.ca.

There were 241,794 guns registered in Alberta as of October, according to Ethan Lecavalier-Kidney, press secretary for Minister Shandro. 

Of that number, Lecavalier-Kidney said 237,638 were handguns, 2,918 were rifles, and 1,238 were guns registered as “other.”

Rifles and shotguns are probably vastly underrepresented in that total, because most long guns don’t need to be registered under current legislation.

Reader opposes Sovereignty Act

 

If adopted, the Sovereignty Act will forever change how Alberta functions inside or outside of Canada.

There has been a lot of press coverage of the Sovereignty Act over the past few months. It was a major plank in Danielle Smith’s campaign to become leader of the UCP.

As we all know, Danielle won with just over 60,000 votes, in a province with more than four million citizens. With that as a mandate, she took over as premier, and has embarked on a program that will fundamentally alter the relationship of Alberta with the rest of Canada.

The premier had repeatedly asked that the Sovereignty Act not be judged until it had been tabled in the legislature. That happened last week, and there were some surprises in the package the government submitted.

Taking the premier at her word, I read the act carefully, and was surprised. I am not a lawyer, but I cannot help but think most members of the cabinet must have skipped the high school classes on how our democracy works.

The first and most important point is that you rarely get everything you want. You have to be gracious when you win, and accept it when there are outcomes you are unhappy with.

Canada and its laws are not a smorgasbord. You do not get to pick and choose the laws that you like, and ignore the ones you do not like.

If you believe a law, any law, is wrong, there are ways to express your views. The most serious is to take the law to court, and to abide by the ruling.

If we adopt a pick-and-choose approach, things start to fall apart. If the provincial government can ignore certain laws, why couldn’t a city do the same thing to provincial laws? Indeed, why would a private citizen be required to follow a law that disadvantaged them?

The situation gets even more complex when you note that Bill 1 would allow the provincial government to rule against things that have not even happened. The language in the bill allows government to act against any perceived intention by the federal government to do something.

A basic aspect of our laws is that we cannot be convicted for simply thinking about doing something illegal. Even talking about doing something is not usually a crime. In Bill 1, that assumption of innocence seems to have been forgotten.

Our system also requires that the legislature have an opportunity to debate changes to laws. Bill 1, as written, will allow cabinet to make laws and proclaim them, without any debate in the legislature. Those laws are in force for up to two years, and can then be renewed without legislature debate for a further two years.

There are news reports that the bill will now be amended to remove the lawmaking portions. This raises the question of why the bill was introduced with that language in it. Do the politicians not read their own legislation? Or was it a power grab that they hoped no one would notice?

Neither option is reassuring. In one reading, they are just incompetent. In the other, they are dictators-in-waiting.

So, we have a bill that will allow a small number of legislators to try and cancel a national law. It further allows cabinet to direct a large number of other bodies, including your local hospital, police force and the whole educational system, to also ignore federal law.

There appears to be no consideration of the degree to which at least some of those bodies must interact with the federal government, and that interaction requires the bodies to follow federal rules.

I find it disturbing that there does not appear to have been consideration of what the federal response to Bill 1 might be. There seems to be an assumption that the federal response will be either a legal challenge or nothing. However, that may be incorrect, as there are many actions that Ottawa could take that would have dramatic impacts on Alberta.

The premier has been loud in her demands that the Canadian government stay out of areas of provincial jurisdiction. Exactly what that might mean has not been spelled out, but there are some obvious areas where dramatic change might happen.

Health care is a provincial responsibility under our Constitution. Despite that, there are multiple shared-cost programs, where the provinces receive federal dollars to help deliver programs. If Ottawa stopped their cost-share, Alberta would lose several billion from the health budget.

The UCP government has vigorously promoted a provincial police force. They admit that would cost tens of millions of dollars more than the current arrangement. They also note that it would take several years to set up a completely new force. But, the current contract allows either party to cancel on two years’ notice. If Ottawa simply exercised that option, Alberta might have a very hard time replacing the RCMP by 2025.

Many students receive scholarships and similar support from federal bodies, especially at the university level. The universities and such also receive large sums from the federal government. If Ottawa decided that since education is a provincial responsibility they would stop their financial contributions, many students and institutions would be in serious trouble.

There will also be economic impacts. No large company is likely to start or expand operations where two levels of government are in a fierce battle. If there is an alternative place to invest, they will likely avoid Alberta until things are sorted out.

In short, this bill, if adopted, will forever change how Alberta functions inside or outside of Canada. If Ms. Smith really wants to make such sweeping changes, she should at least wait until after we have an election.

Alan Garbutt
Resident of Cowley, Alberta

 

Shootin’ the Breeze welcomes submissions about local issues and activities. Personal views expressed in Mailbox articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect views of Shootin’ the Breeze management and staff. 

 

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Toews speaks to Sovereignty Act

Premier Danielle Smith’s proposed Sovereignty Act, introduced Tuesday in the Alberta legislature, won’t hurt foreign investment by triggering constitutional battles with Ottawa, Finance Minister Travis Toews said Wednesday.

Toews told a roundtable of community newspaper reporters in southern Alberta that the UCP government is eyeing volatility now affecting international commodity prices, especially oil. 

“When we take a look at the uncertainty right now that we see in the economy globally, which always has an impact on commodity prices and creates volatility in those prices, we have to always budget with that in mind here in the province of Alberta,” Toews said.

But the Sovereignty Act, he said, will ensure “certainty and predictability” because it upholds the rule of law and the Canadian Constitution.

Toews was openly critical of Smith’s Alberta Sovereignty Act during the recent UCP leadership race, in which both were candidates, when Smith said the act would empower the province to override federal laws, policies and programs the legislature determined to be unconstitutional or hurtful to Alberta’s economic interests.

 

 

“I’ll just be really transparent,” he said Wednesday. “My concern was that (the Sovereignty Act) certainly would have the probability of creating unpredictability or a lack of certainty within our business environment.” 

But Toews now says the UCP’s rebranded Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act (Bill 1) shouldn’t worry investors that the province might upend the status quo.

The overwhelming bulk of Alberta’s budget surplus, now on track to hit $12.3 billion for the current fiscal year, comes from energy royalties and corporate tax revenue. Toews said his ministry anticipates “solid surpluses” of $5.6 and $5.3 billion in the next two fiscal years. 

The minister said he’s confident the province’s political stability will continue to make Alberta a smart place to invest, but he won’t unconditionally vote for the new Sovereignty Act.

“Look, I can support this act if it, in fact, respects the rule of law; if it’s constitutional, and if it can be implemented in a way that’s not going to create uncertainty and a lack of predictability in our business environment.” 

 

 

Toews stressed that the act “won’t and can’t” compel Albertans or businesses that operate in the province to “disregard federal law.” 

As it now stands, Bill 1 gives Smith’s cabinet the authority to direct Crown corporations and a host of provincial entities, including post-secondaries and school boards, not to follow federal laws the legislature deems unconstitutional. The law is silent on what would happen to these bodies should they refuse cabinet’s direction.

“We’re talking hypotheticals here,” Toews said, adding, “There’s a lot of assumptions that we would have to make in order to answer that question. My concern is that, whatever we do with this legislation, we do it in a way that’s going to continue to provide certainty and predictability within Alberta’s economic environment.” 

“It won’t undermine the rule of law and it will be constitutional,” he said. “And those two pieces will be important as we continue to attract investment for our economy.”

MLAs will deliberate Bill 1 between now and Christmas, as the legislature works through its fall session.