Danielle Smith’s Government to Invoke Sovereignty Act Against Ottawa’s Clean Electricity Regulations

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Alberta Premier Danielle Smith tabled her Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act last November, and has repeatedly threatened to invoke it against Ottawa to fight various environmental policies she argues trample over provincial jurisdiction. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is set to activate the controversial Sovereignty Act on Monday, in a bold move to exempt the province’s power companies from the federal government’s proposed clean electricity regulations. This development, first reported by CBC News, marks a significant escalation in the ongoing tension between Alberta and Ottawa over environmental policy.

The Sovereignty Act, officially known as the Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act, was passed last December and is designed to counter what the Alberta government perceives as federal interference in provincial matters. According to sources familiar with the situation, the Smith government will introduce a resolution in the legislature, declaring the federal government’s plan to reduce grid emissions as unconstitutional and outlining the non-enforcement of these regulations in Alberta.

Premier Smith, speaking on her Saturday morning radio program “Your Province. Your Premier.”, confirmed the news and expressed her frustration with the federal government. “We have been trying to work collaboratively with them on aligning their targets with our targets,” she said. Smith emphasized the need for a reliable and affordable grid and assured that operators would not be at risk of imprisonment for failing to meet what she considers unachievable targets.

This initiative will be debated and likely approved in the United Conservative Party-dominated legislature on Monday. Smith has been forthright about her intention to use the act to thwart the Clean Electricity Regulations (CER), a suite of rules integral to the Trudeau government’s plan for a net-zero power grid by 2035. While these regulations do not outright ban the use of emitting power sources, like Alberta’s natural gas-burning plants, they impose strict limits on their usage starting in 2035.

The Goreway Power Station in Brampton is a gas-fired plant with the capacity to produce 875 megawatts of electricity. It’s owned by Capital Power, a company based in Edmonton.

Defending Alberta’s reliance on natural gas for electricity generation, Smith has been a vocal critic of Ottawa’s clean energy policies. According to CBC News, Alberta has even launched an $8-million national advertising campaign to rally support against the federal plan, demanding a net-zero grid target by 2050 instead of 2035. This stance aligns with Canada’s broader commitment to a carbon-neutral economy by 2050.

Earlier warnings of the Sovereignty Act’s potential use were reiterated in the provincial throne speech last month, highlighting several motions to protect jurisdiction “if the federal government continues down its current path.”

Smith’s assertive stance has gained momentum following a recent Supreme Court ruling that deemed much of the federal Impact Assessment Act as overreaching into provincial jurisdiction. However, legal experts have pointed out that this ruling is unlikely to affect the grid regulations, which are based on different federal powers.

It’s important to note that the new regulations are still in draft form, with no set timeline for their finalization. Yet, the Sovereignty Act allows the province to act against any federal initiative, even if it is only proposed or anticipated.

Despite this assertive move, the provincial government has not yet discussed its plan to invoke the Sovereignty Act with Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson or at ongoing Alberta-Ottawa working group meetings, according to a spokesperson for the minister.