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Guilbeault: Ottawa Will Not Contest Alberta’s ‘Symbolic’ Use of Sovereignty Act

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The environment minister had accused Alberta Premier Danielle Smith of creating ‘fear and uncertainty’ by invoking her province’s sovereignty act.

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault says the government has no plans to challenge Alberta’s “symbolic” use of its new sovereignty act in response to Ottawa’s Clean Electricity Regulations (CER).

“Premier [Danielle] Smith said herself yesterday that the sovereignty act is a largely symbolic gesture. You don’t take someone to court for something that’s symbolic,” Mr. Guilbeault told reporters in Ottawa on Nov. 28.

Ms. Smith invoked the “Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act” on Nov. 27 in response to the federal government’s proposed requirements for achieving a net-zero electricity grid by 2035. The regulations would require the province to significantly modify its power grid, because three-quarters of its power generation comes from natural gas.

According to Ms. Smith, Ottawa is infringing on provincial jurisdiction with its CER, which she says will reduce the reliability of the province’s supply of electrical power and increase costs.

The motion tabled in the provincial legislature asks legislators to reject the constitutional validity of Ottawa’s CER and use legal means to oppose the measure. It also calls for the province to explore creating a provincial Crown corporation to ensure a continued supply of reliable electricity in case private generators fail.

“Albertans must have access to affordable and reliable power when and where they need it. It’s a matter of health and safety, and a matter of financial reality,” Ms. Smith told reporters on Nov. 27. “The Constitution is clear; electricity is a provincial responsibility.”

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Ms. Smith said she tried to work with the federal government to push the net-zero emissions plan back to 2050, but her plan was unsuccessful.

“We are left with no choice but to create a shield to protect Albertans from Ottawa’s dangerous and unconstitutional electricity regulations,” she said.

Act Creates ‘Fear and Uncertainty’: Ministers

Shortly after the Alberta government invoked the act, Mr. Guilbeault and Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson accused Ms. Smith of creating “fear and uncertainty” instead of collaborating with the federal government.

The ministers said in a statement that Ottawa had been engaging in “good faith” with the Alberta government on clean electricity investments and draft regulations, but at “no point” did the province or representatives from Ms. Smith’s office raise the possibility of the sovereignty act being invoked.

“Canada stands ready to continue to make substantial investments in Alberta’s electricity infrastructure and to collaborate with as many partners as possible to seize the opportunities and benefits of a clean grid,” said the joint letter.

The sovereignty act was a flagship promise of Ms. Smith during her campaign to become leader of the United Conservative Party in Alberta in 2022. The act was introduced following Ms. Smith’s electoral victory nearly a year ago.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Nov. 29 that the federal government intends to “continue to work with Alberta on building a strong economy for the future and ensuring great jobs as we protect future generations.”

“Alberta is already the place in Canada that has the largest amount of green investments from around the world and we’re going to continue to work with them,” he said.

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