Competing protests in Edmonton show differing opinions on the proposed Sovereignty Act
About 90 people gathered at the Alberta legislature on Sunday to protest Prime Minister Danielle Smith’s proposed sovereignty of Alberta within a United Canada Act. There was also a counter-protest of about the same size in support of the controversial legislation.
The bill, introduced by Smith on Tuesday as her new administration’s signature legislation, has drawn widespread condemnation for giving her and her cabinet sweeping authority to reinstate any federal policy, law or program deemed harmful to Alberta.
Days after Smith introduced the bill, she and her cabinet members rejected allegations, including from legal and constitutional scholars, that the bill conferred unchecked power on the cabinet.
On Saturday, Smith told her Corus radio talk show that her sovereignty bill was never intended to give the cabinet such sweeping authority, adding that her administration wants to make it clear legally that this is not the case.
“The Prime Minister will speak to her caucus on Monday about possible amendments to ensure that this fact becomes crystal clear in the final legislation when it is finally voted on at third reading,” a statement from Smith’s office reads.
Haruun Ali, an organizer of the protest against the bill, said he was pleased to see Smith reviewing this part of the bill.
“However, what we also want to see is a complete rollback of this bill because frankly the government is trying to save this bill and save their agenda, but it’s not working,” he said in an interview on Sunday.
“We really hope and believe that we can get this bill repealed.”
Ali said he thinks Albertans need help with issues such as the cost of living and health care rather than the government focusing on fighting Ottawa.
Another organizer, Chad Ohman, reiterated Ali’s hope that the government would listen to their demands.
“There are significant problems with the bill as it is being presented. Personally, I think the bill should really be withdrawn,” he said on Sunday.
“It’s a complete attack on our democracy.”
Counter-protesters say Ottawa ‘exceeds’
Benita Pedersen, of All Fired up for Freedom, showed up as part of the group of counter-demonstrators and said she is in favor of the bill.
“Ottawa has gone too far in many ways and the Sovereignty Act is simply about Alberta being in its own jurisdiction in many matters,” she said.
“We don’t technically need anything from Ottawa.”
The federal government provides money to counties to help fund a wide variety of things, including housing, transportation, legal aid, and post-secondary education.
Pedersen was a grassroots organizer of COVID-19 public health protests and attended the Freedom Convoy in Ottawa earlier this year.
She added that she appreciated seeing protesters with different views than she did, and said problems are solved through conversations between people with different points of view.
Response from the opposition
Despite Smith saying she wants to adjust the bill, the NDP said in a statement on Sunday that the bill is “beyond salvage”.
“It must be withdrawn. It must be stopped,” Deron Bilous, a critic of the NDP’s economic development, said in a statement.
“I’m here today to make it clear that the Alberta NDP will not support amendments to this legislation. We will not support undemocratic legislation that is already damaging our province’s economy and reputation.”
The government said in its statement that it is “disappointing” that the NDP will not vote in favor of the bill or propose amendments.