Alberta, the nation: MLAs seek sovereignty

The Free Alberta Strategy outlines how the provincial government could take unilateral action through introduction of the Alberta Sovereignty Act to remove itself from federal decision making. | Screencap via Facebook/Free Alberta

Free Alberta’s unilateral Alberta Sovereignty Act would let Alberta excuse itself from federal decision making

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the Alberta health-care system to its knees with deaths and illnesses.

Now, a group of MLAs are backing an immediate declaration of sovereignty for the province.

“Alberta is under assault from our own nation’s capital. There is no other way to describe what is happening,” said Rob Anderson, a former PC and Wildrose MLA who’s spearheading the movement. “The provincial government needs to take action now.”

The Free Alberta Strategy outlines how the provincial government could take unilateral action through introduction of the Alberta Sovereignty Act to remove itself from federal decision making.

“This will grant the Alberta legislature absolute and total discretion to refuse any provincial enforcement of federal laws and court rulings that, in its view, interfere with provincial areas of jurisdiction or constitute an attack on the interests of Alberta,” said Anderson.

UCP MLAs speaker Nathan Cooper, deputy speaker Angela Pitt and Jason Stephan were joined by former caucus members Drew Barnes and Todd Lowen as part of the Free Alberta announcement.

Cooper remained silent with his camera off during the virtual media conference, not answering several questions regarding his involvement in the sovereignty plan.

Anderson described Cooper’s participation as being, “an interested observer.”

NDP opposition leader Rachel Notley blasted the timing of the strategy and called the UCP government culpable for the current health-care crisis and “tone deaf” for its members to launch an initiative to alienate the province from the rest of Canada.

“At the very time that we need Newfoundland and Quebec and Ontario and Ottawa and others to step up and help get this ridiculous government out of this profound crisis that they have haplessly imposed on Albertans, (the reason for the strategy) is beyond anyone’s ability to answer,” said Notley.

Veteran Alberta political strategist Stephen Carter, president of Decide Campaigns, went further in his criticisms of the Free Alberta plan.

“This is the equivalent of a petulant five-year-old throwing a temper tantrum because they didn’t get the same sized cupcake as their brother or sister,” said Carter, adding that Albertans pay the same tax as the rest of Canadians.

As for the involvement of the traditionally non-partisan legislature speaker in the strategy, Carter said Cooper needs to step down from that position.

“It’s something that is advocating removal from the country. It’s treasonous, frankly,” said Carter. “It’s an embarrassment to his office.”

While Cooper remained silent during the virtual news conference, deputy speaker Pitt voiced her opinion when asked if she had confidence in Premier Jason Kenney’s leadership during the announcement.

“No, I don’t,” said Pitt, who has been outspoken in opposing COVID restrictions. “And I don’t think my constituents do either.”

Earlier this year, Cooper apologized to the legislature after being one of 18 UCP MLAs, including Pitt, who signed a letter opposing COVID restrictions. He said then that the impartiality of the speaker “is fundamental to a healthy, functioning democracy.”

In addition to sovereignty legislation to allow the province to deny enforcement of federal laws such as the carbon tax, Anderson said the Free Alberta Strategy also calls for the end of any transferring of taxes from Alberta to Ottawa.

“We need that money for the health of Albertans, for their education, budget balances and economic competitiveness here at home,” said Anderson. “Not for vote-buying schemes in Eastern Canada.”

That would be done by introduction of a second bill that would see creation of a provincial tax-collecting body, “and grant the provincial government authority for the total amount of equalization stolen by Ottawa from Alberta each year.”

Anderson described the strategy as allowing Alberta to be a sovereign jurisdiction within Canada. “It is not a call for separation — at least not yet.”

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