Alberta Invokes Sovereignty Act Against Federal Clean Electricity Regulations

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Premier Danielle Smith takes part in a news conference on Monday, Nov. 27, 2023, where she outlined the Alberta Sovereignty Within A United Canada Act motion that she will bring before the Alberta legislature. PHOTO BY DAVID BLOOM /Postmedia

In a bold move, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s government has invoked the province’s Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act, commonly known as the Sovereignty Act, in response to the federal government’s proposed Clean Electricity Regulations (CER). This marks the first use of the controversial legislation, setting the stage for a significant confrontation between provincial and federal authorities.

Alberta’s Stand Against Federal Regulations

The resolution, tabled in the Alberta legislature, directs provincial entities to disregard the upcoming federal regulations “to the extent legally permissible.” These regulations aim to achieve a net-zero emissions electricity grid by 2035, a target the Alberta government deems unrealistic and detrimental to the province’s electricity supply and economic stability.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, with Minister of Environment and Protected Areas Rebecca Schulz and Minister of Affordability and Utilities Nathan Neudorf, at a news conference where they outlined the Alberta sovereignty act motion that will be brought before the Alberta Legislature, in Edmonton, Monday Nov. 27, 2023. PHOTO BY DAVID BLOOM/POSTMEDIA

Premier Smith’s Statements

Premier Smith, in a press conference, stressed the necessity of the resolution. “We refuse to meekly accept actions which are so plainly destructive to Alberta’s economy and to the very safety and security of Albertan citizens,” she said. Smith also proposed an alternative target of 2050 for achieving net-zero emissions.

The Proposal of a Crown Corporation

As part of the resolution, the Alberta government is considering the establishment of a provincial Crown corporation. This entity would serve as a “generator of last resort,” potentially commissioning new natural gas-fired plants and making deals for small-scale nuclear reactors. It would operate independently of the CER, aiming to encourage continued private sector investment in Alberta’s power generation.

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault says the government is considering appealing the decision. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Federal Response

Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault expressed surprise at Alberta’s use of the Sovereignty Act, emphasizing that discussions with the province had never touched on this possibility. Guilbeault argued that there is no basis for the claims made by Premier Smith regarding the impact of the federal regulations on Alberta’s electricity rates and grid reliability.

Political and Legal Implications

The decision has sparked varied reactions. Opposition leader Rachel Notley described the Sovereignty Act as an “illegal stunt” with real-world consequences, including undermining investment certainty and challenging respect for the rule of law. Legal experts have expressed concerns about the resolution’s premature nature and its potential legal challenges.