By Cole Parkinson
Sunny South News
While the rollout of Bill 1 — Alberta Sovereignty within a United Canada Act was rocky, Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter says it took some time, but the provincial government is happy with it after amendments were made.While clarity was an initial concern, Hunter says he understands why some Albertans were against the original version.
“I think one of the problems we faced was there was a section in the Alberta Sovereignty within a United Canada Act that wasn’t as clear as it could have been in terms of who would be making changes to statutory pieces of legislation. That needed to be clarified and that was done (Dec. 8) in amendments that were presented to be Committee of the Whole, which is between the second and third reading,” he explained.
According to the provincial government’s website, “the act will be used to push back on federal legislation and policy that is unconstitutional or harmful to our province, our people and our economic prosperity. This may include overreach and interference in areas our government considers provincial jurisdiction such as firearms, energy, natural resources and COVID healthcare decisions.” It also states “The act would give Alberta a legislative framework and democratic approach for defending the federal-provincial division of powers while respecting Canada’s constitution and the courts.”
Hunter says the original version of the document had some unintended powers given and once those were identified, changes were made.
“That was important to do, it was never the intent, and I’ve talked to the premier, to give wide-sweeping legislative powers to cabinet to be making legislation or legislation changes. That needs to remain within the purview of all the legislative — all 87 legislatives in the House,” he continued.
While reaction to the Sovereignty Act has been fairly split across the province, Hunter says in speaking with residents in the Taber-Warner riding, many seem to be in favour. Hunter though does understand why there are still Albertans not fully on board with it.
“I think the majority are in favour (in the Taber-Warner riding). I would say in other parts of Alberta, like Calgary and Edmonton, they aren’t as in favour of it. So, the real question I think people have in their mind is how is it going to affect business attraction? We’re firing on all cylinders right now — we’ve got many businesses that are looking to come into Alberta and we don’t want to chase those away. Another province, Quebec, went down the separatist avenue and that chased away so many businesses, it dropped retail values, and houses were at record lows — that was never the intention of this bill,” stated Hunter.
The NDP have also been staunch in their opposition to the bill and Hunter says there may be mixed messaging about the Sovereignty Act. Hunter continued to explain the provincial government is not seeking separation from Canada, but they feel the province has had an unfair deal from the federal government.
“The media and NDP have tried to swing it to say that was going to be the problem with it. I don’t see that as the problem because, really this is not asserting a separatist approach, this is actually talking about our constitutional rights and responsibilities in Alberta and in the confederation. That’s where I’m excited about this — clarifying the roles and responsibilities of the provinces and the federal government,” added Hunter. “The federal government is not the parent and we’re the children, that is not the case. The case is we are equal partners in confederation — that was how it was first set up back in 1867 and then clarified in 82. It’s important for us to understand that and I didn’t actually know that until recently. We received some briefings from constitutional lawyers and an ex-Supreme Court judge that was helping us as caucus to understand. The province of Alberta actually has constitutional lanes and the federal government has a constitutional lane and they are supposed to respect each other’s lanes and not crossover.”
While the provincial government continues to harp on the federal government’s overreach in Alberta, Hunter says it’s something he’s noticed for most of his life.
“That’s one thing I think we have seen a lot of over the decades. Since I was young I’ve seen the federal government try to move into our lane and that’s got to stop. This is going to help our constitutional right in Alberta within the confederation of Canada,” he said.
In terms of where the provincial government may use the Sovereignty Act, Hunter said there were a few different areas they could target. One in the limelight right now is the federal government’s Bill C-21.
“The gun issue is really going to play out in terms of — the federal government is going to say that is their responsibility. So, that would be a clause they would say ‘it’s about good governance and we have that right.’ The province is going to say ‘hey, it’s a property issue and we have that right.’ It will have to play out that way in terms of the gun issue. Our Conservative MPs from Alberta and different parts of Canada have had a win this last little while in Parliament, and that’s good to see,” said Hunter. “What else are we going to be working on? Well, if there are issues in terms of resource development, this is really the big part that I think this will be used in. Resources are 100 per cent provincial jurisdiction in the constitution and that resource development and being able to have our ability to get our resources to market is where we’re really going to focus this one. We cannot have a federal government continually passing laws that are going to landlock and stop our ability to provide prosperity for our families and Albertans. It’s nonsensical and I don’t understand why they do it, but we see many examples of where they have.”
Bill 1 received third reading on Dec. 8.
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