Tag: Danielle Smith

Blue mailbox with envelopes spilling out – Shootin' the Breeze letters to the editor

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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.

 

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“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.” 

 

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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.

 

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Respiratory illness outbreak at MHHS

A “respiratory illness outbreak” was announced at Matthew Halton High School in Pincher Creek on Tuesday, Nov. 22, according to Darryl Seguin, superintendent at Livingstone Range School Division. 

The outbreak came into effect at MHHS after at least 10 per cent of the 278 students stayed home with respiratory symptoms.

Schools are asked to notify Alberta Health Services’ Co-ordinated Early Identification and Response team whenever absenteeism due to respiratory illness hits 10 per cent or when there’s an unusual number of individuals (off sick) with similar symptoms.

Tuesday’s announcement came one day after an outbreak was declared at Pincher Creek’s Canyon School.

No further outbreaks were reported within LRSD as of Wednesday afternoon. A prior outbreak had been announced at the school division’s early-learning program at the Horace Allen School in Coleman. 

 

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Seguin didn’t say if LRSD has the authority to impose masking mandates. Premier Danielle Smith announced earlier this month that “Our government will not permit any further masking mandates of children in Alberta’s K-12 education system.” 

A Court of King’s Bench judge had previously ruled that a health order to this effect by Dr. Deena Hinshaw, formerly Alberta’s chief medical officer, “was made for improper purposes.”

Justice G.S. Dunlop ruled that the chief medical officer has the authority to mandate school health measures, but that Hinshaw had based her order on a political decision by cabinet.

Custodial staff at Canyon and MHHS are taking extra care to clean surfaces, while teachers are being encouraged to rearrange classrooms to allow for more social distancing, Seguin said. 

The outbreak seems to have spared teachers at MHHS, with Seguin saying staff absences due to illness have been normal for this point in the school year.

The division is home to about 3,750 kids in K-12.

 

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Don Whalen seeks Livingstone-MacLeod nomination

Don Whalen, an entrepreneur and lay preacher from Parkland, Alta., announced Sunday, Nov. 18, that he will seek the United Conservative Party’s nomination to represent Livingstone-Macleod in the next provincial election. 

In his first media interview Wednesday, Whalen said he would file his papers as soon as the party reopens the nomination, probably after Christmas. 

Incumbent MLA Roger Reid announced Nov. 1 that he would not seek re-election. The UCP later rejected a nomination bid and subsequent appeal by former People’s Party candidate Nadine Wellwood, citing recent social media posts in which she likened vaccine passports and other pandemic health measures to Nazi Germany.

Next spring’s election would be Whalen’s first run for public office, he said. The nomination hopeful aligns himself closely with Premier Danielle Smith, calling himself “a lifelong conservative” and a former Wildrose voter.

“I’m liking what the premier is doing: She’s not afraid to stand up for what she believes in.” 

Whalen said he wants to serve in the legislature to be the voice of disaffected voters in the riding. 

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“I’m really concerned about the direction our province and country have been going in over the last two to three years. People are being marginalized and they’re not being heard.” 

Taking aim at the federal government and former premier Jason Kenney, Whalen said pandemic health measures had gone too far. 

“Our personal rights and freedoms were just trampled on, and the Charter (of Rights and Freedoms) was just a piece of paper for a couple of years.” 

Whalen said public health policy should be informed by medical science, but lamented that pandemic measures had been overtly politicized. 

“During Covid, Deena Hinshaw,” Alberta’s chief public health officer until Smith fired her Nov. 14, “was the most important person in Alberta, and we had non-elected officials basically deciding everything for us,” he said.

Looking ahead to Smith’s long-promised Alberta Sovereignty Act, Whalen said the province doesn’t need legislation to assert its jurisdiction over things like natural resources. He was also highly critical of pending federal legislation he said would “confiscate” hundreds of local gun owners to give up their guns, but stopped short of advocating separatism.

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“I’m an Albertan. But, I’m also a Canadian. I am concerned that it’s going to be very hard to change things with Ottawa, so I’m stepping up to be a voice for that change in a positive way.” 

On climate change, Whalen said he opposes the federal carbon tax, but supports the development of clean-burning energy. 

Whalen said he co-owns a small buy-and-sell business with a friend. He is also a lay preacher, taking the pulpit about once a month at Fort Macleod’s House of Prayer.

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Twin boy toddlers with red hair and blue eyes laugh as they ride on wooden rocking horses

Nov. 23, 2022

Rockin’ into Christmas

Two-year-old twins Cayd and Coy Nelson have a rockin’ time Saturday at A Country Christmas Artisan Market at Pincher Creek Community Hall.

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