Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has announced her government will pull out of new federal programs or avoid federal consultations that aren’t in Alberta’s best interests.
The premier published a letter to her cabinet on Thursday outlining strategies to move forward on consultations with the federal government. As premier, Smith said she must ensure Alberta’s freedoms and interests are protected from federal institutions.
“There may be cases where Alberta will seek to opt out of new federal program if they aren’t in Alberta’s best interest,” she wrote.
The new premier said Ottawa often avoids “meaningful engagement” with Alberta. The federal government must provide early, open and honest communication so the province can demonstrate its progress and propose alternatives to federal intervention where necessary, Smith wrote.
“If the federal government does not honour cooperative federalism through meaningful engagement, we will simply not participate in their consultations.”
Smith was sworn in as premier two weeks ago, after winning the United Conservative Party leadership race in which she campaigned on protecting Alberta’s jurisdictional rights from Ottawa. At the party’s annual general meeting on Saturday, she said her government will not enforce federal laws and policies that attack Alberta’s economy or violate the rights of our people.
In the letter, Smith said Alberta is consistently treated as a subordinate level of government with unilateral federal decisions that landlock resources, undermine provincial prosperity and make life less affordable for Albertans.
“On major policy issues, our government will be discussing a push back strategy to address issues such as the federal oil and gas emissions cap fertilizer reductions, and the firearms confiscation program,” Smith wrote.
“The Alberta Sovereignty Act is a critical part of that strategy.”
At the UCP annual general meeting on Saturday, Smith said work on the Sovereignty Act has already begun, with the expectation legislation will be ready to be tabled by the time she takes a seat in the legislature. Smith’s proposed Sovereignty Act was a hallmark of her leadership campaign, pitched as a way to assert Alberta’s autonomy in the face of a hostile legislative agenda from Ottawa.
Until that proposal becomes law, Smith is warning her ministers to carefully consider the effects of federal spending on the province. Targeted, time-limited federal funding agreements often focus on federal priorities at the expense of Alberta priorities, fail to address the disproportionate financial burden Alberta carries when Ottawa spends money, and undermine the constitutional responsibility of provinces in key areas like resource development, health and social programs, she said.
Furthermore, she said such agreements often target municipalities directly in an attempt to circumvent provincial authority, create expectations from stakeholders that Alberta will continue to fund federal priorities after the federal funding expires.
“We must hold our ground when federal policies and funding threaten Alberta’s interest,” Smith wrote.
She said moving forward, cabinet ministers must consider the constitutional division of powers, equal orders of government, accountability to citizens and jurisdictional diversity.
“Alberta is to be treated as an equal owner of government under the constitution and not as a stakeholder,” Smith wrote. “Alberta has its own legislation, policies, priorities, and procedures. Alberta’s government is accountable to its residents, not to the federal government.”
Ministers were told to share all information related to federal funding and federal funding proposals with Intergovernmental Relations to ensure the government’s approach is unified and effective.
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