Alberta Premier Challenges Federal Net-Zero Plan, Threatens to Invoke Sovereignty Act

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With a palpable air of discontent, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith vocalised her growing dissatisfaction with the federal government’s net-zero transition plan. Her comments, inflamed by a mounting sense of urgency, have engendered a readiness to invoke the Sovereignty Act in defence of her province’s interests.

During a recent press release, Premier Smith broached the topic in an effort to galvanize public concern around the Clean Electricity Regulations. Presenting a united front, she signalled her province’s intent to challenge what they regard as overreach by the federal government.

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Acknowledging the possibility of invoking the Sovereignty Act, passed only a year prior, Smith issued a cautionary refrain: “I’m hoping we don’t have to use it – that’s why we’re at the table.” The act, foregone but poised to strike, ensures a province’s ability to contest federal laws, thus safeguarding its constitutional liberties.

This strategic manoeuvre would charge against federal legislations and policies deemed unconstitutional or in violation of Albertans’ charter rights. Any interference with provincial constitutional rights would trigger this defensive mechanism – a categorical assertion of autonomy.

Smouldering under this threat bares the proposed regulations, an attractive opportunity to deploy the Sovereignty Act. Smith, exasperated but resolute, reiterated her stance against unrealistic emissions reduction targets forced on industries pivotal to Alberta’s economy, such as oil and natural gas.

Where food production was once imperilled by an unfairly restrictive emissions cap, she recollected the federal authorities’ volte-face. Now, Smith asserts Alberta’s commitment to reducing emissions, having already achieved a commendable reduction of 44 per cent.

Nevertheless, the federal government continues to push aggressively for a net-zero cap by 2035, a goal seen as unrealistic by Smith. Connecting alignment on the 2050 target with eliminating the need for defensive measures, Smith conjures an image of provincial and federal entities in step with each other’s interests.

However, the exigencies placed upon Alberta by the Canadian federal government are deemed excessive. Smith suggests a more accommodating approach, drawing on technological advancements in carbon capture utilisation and storage along with nuclear power. The question is whether they will be developed in time to meet the ambitious federal targets.

Earlier that day, the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) disclosed its concerns about the costs associated with the federal government’s envisaged transition in 2035. A staggering $118 billion could be the resultant outlay for Alberta, with the everyday Albertan expected to bear the brunt.

Meanwhile, the federal clean energy proposal’s veracity has been put into question. Critics argue that the discussion leans heavily into political territory, calling for a more objective approach to the problems at hand. Sofia Hastings-Simon, an academic from the University of Calgary’s Department of Earth, Energy and Environment, suggests focusing on developing current technology rather than pushing back grid goals by 15 years.

In response, Alberta’s government begins an ad campaign, aiming to take the fight beyond the province’s borders. This initiative, named TellTheFeds.ca, encourages Canadians nationwide to express their concerns over the transition to net-zero by 2035. The government’s bid for public support gathers momentum against the expansive backdrop of radio, television, and billboard advertisements, adding traction to their cause as the deadline for public feedback approaches.

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Melinda Cochrane is a poet, teacher and fiction author. She is also the editor and publisher of The Inspired Heart, a collection of international writers. Melinda also runs a publishing company, Melinda Cochrane International books for aspiring writers, based out Montreal, Quebec. Her publication credits include: The art of poetic inquiry, (Backalong Books), a novella, Desperate Freedom, (Brian Wrixon Books Canada), and 2 collections of poetry; The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat, (Backalong Books), and She’s an Island Poet, Desperate Freedom was on the bestseller's list for one week, and The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat is one of hope and encouragement for all those living in the social welfare system. She’s been published in online magazines such as, (regular writer for) ‘Life as a Human’, and Shannon Grissom’s magazine.