To defend the province’s interests against an overbearing federal government

Lennie Kaplan: Alberta Sovereignty Act

The Alberta Sovereignty within a United Canada Act is designed to defend Alberta’s interests by providing the province with a legal framework to push back against federal laws or policies that negatively impact the province.

However, despite its intentions, the Act is often seen as “toothless” as it does not offer a robust enough framework that requires the government to specifically quantify the negative impacts of federal laws or policies on Albertans. Credibility and accountability to Albertans are crucial, and the Alberta Sovereignty Act needs strengthening if it is to effectively defend their interests.

The Alberta government should take the lead in strengthening the Alberta Sovereignty Act from its neighbours in Saskatchewan. The Saskatchewan First Act creates an Economic Impact Assessment Tribunal to:

“… assess and report on the economic effects of federal initiatives on provincial investments and Saskatchewan projects, businesses, and people… In its report, the Tribunal may make recommendations regarding the nature of the economic impact of the federal initiative on projects, operations, activities, industries, businesses, or residents in Saskatchewan and the steps that may be taken to minimize the economic impact of the federal initiative in Saskatchewan.”

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The Tribunal, commonly known as the Saskatchewan First Tribunal, was unveiled in November 2023 and consists of five members. Its inaugural task for economic scrutiny is the federal Clean Electricity Regulation (CER). It is set to commence its assessment of the CER this month and is scheduled to provide its findings to the Saskatchewan government by the end of May.

In light of the experience in Saskatchewan, the Alberta government should strengthen the Alberta Sovereignty Act by mandating the establishment of its own Economic Impact Assessment Tribunals to precisely quantify the impacts of harmful federal laws and policies on Albertans. The Economic Impact Assessment Tribunals should be obligated to publicly disclose their findings to Albertans.

The case of harmful federal climate change policies is a test case for a strengthened Alberta Sovereignty Act. We already know the Alberta government has prepared various internal briefings and summaries detailing the harmful impacts of federal climate change policies. This complements third-party modelling of federal climate change policies being conducted for the Alberta government.

For some reason, however, there appears to be a general reluctance from the Alberta government to share this information with Albertans. Frankly, it’s time to put all this internal and third-party analysis to work defending Alberta’s interests.

The Alberta government ought to utilize an improved Alberta Sovereignty Act to call for the establishment of an Economic Impact Assessment Tribunal in the upcoming spring. The primary task of this Tribunal would be to evaluate the adverse consequences of federal climate change policies, including the proposed oil and gas emissions cap, the 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan, and the draft Clean Electricity Regulation.

The Alberta government should use a strengthened Alberta Sovereignty Act to convene an Economic Impact Assessment Tribunal this spring to assess the negative impacts of federal climate change policies (the proposed oil and gas emissions cap, the 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan, and the draft Clean Electricity Regulation).

The Tribunal should have access to all the internal government work being conducted on the negative impacts of federal climate change policies, as well as any third-party modelling work being done for the Alberta government.

It is time to use a strengthened Alberta’s Sovereignty as an effective, rather than symbolic and “toothless” shield to defend Albertans’ interests against an intrusive federal government.

Lennie Kaplan spent over two decades in the public service of Alberta, including as a senior manager in the fiscal and economic policy division of the Ministry of Treasury Board and Finance, where he worked on cross-ministry initiatives evaluating the fiscal and economic impacts of federal climate change policies. He retired from the province’s Canadian Energy Centre at the end of October 2023.

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