Premier Alberta open to amendments to sovereignty law
Prime Minister Danielle Smith suggested on Thursday that the provincial government is open to changes to the proposed sovereignty law.
Smith introduced Bill 1, the Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act, on Tuesday.
Since then, legal experts, opposition MLAs and some business groups have raised concerns about how the bill grants sweeping unilateral powers to the Cabinet to amend the legislation. Smith and her ministers said changes would only be made at the direction of the Legislative Assembly.
On Thursday, a small crack appeared in the government’s hitherto intransigent stance.
During the period in question, Smith challenged the opposition NDP to be “constructive” and table amendments to the bill.
“If the honorable Members would like to put forward a few amendments to pass the bill, we would be happy to work with them,” she said.
While resolutions are discussed and passed by the Legislative Assembly, the bill proposes to give the cabinet the power to amend existing provincial laws behind closed doors. At the moment, the cabinet can only adopt or change rules.
Ministers claim they can only follow recommended actions in the resolution, but the bill is silent on that issue.
Kaycee Madu, deputy prime minister, said on Twitter on Thursday that changes to a statute should always go to the assembly for debate.
“Nothing changed that process in Bill 1,” the post read.
“Bill 1 retains the powers of the Legislative Assembly. We will consider [an] amendment to Bill 1 to clarify this to avoid confusion.”
While unaware of Madu’s tweets, Attorney General Tyler Shandro told reporters on Thursday about the need to potentially make the same clarifications in Bill 1.
“How legislation can be changed after a resolution, I think that should be clearer,” Shandro said. “We’re open to that feedback.”
NDP leader Rachel Notley wants Smith to completely repeal the law. She said the bill scares business, limits Albertans’ ability to challenge decisions and infringes on indigenous peoples’ treaty rights.
“We need to encourage investment opportunities, not drive investors away.” Notley told the legislator. “My message to the government today is to simply withdraw this rubbish.”
Smith said the bill’s wording ensures that the rights of indigenous peoples as set out in section 35 of the 1982 Constitution