Explainer-What is Alberta's Sovereignty Act?

explainer-what is alberta's sovereignty act?

FILE PHOTO: Alberta Premier Danielle Smith looks on at the Premier’s Stampede Breakfast during the annual 10-day Calgary Stampede rodeo and exhibition in Calgary, Alberta, Canada July 10, 2023. REUTERS/Todd Korol/File Photo

(Reuters) – Alberta’s conservative Premier Danielle Smith has said she will put the Canadian province’s Sovereignty Act into motion on Monday to challenge the federal government’s requirement for a net-zero electricity grid by 2035.

Smith’s United Conservative Party government plans to introduce a resolution in the provincial legislature, marking the first use of one of her signature laws enacted last year.

The law is an effort to give the oil-rich province a legislative framework to defy federal laws it opposes and is another front in Smith’s battle against Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s climate plans.

Below are some key aspects of the act:


Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act was approved by the legislature in December 2022 after the initial bill was diluted to its current form. A provision that gave Smith’s cabinet the power to bypass the legislature and rewrite laws as it saw fit was deleted. The act affirmed that the Alberta legislature, not Smith’s cabinet, would have the last word on lawmaking.

The Sovereignty Act was one of the most eye-catching policies Smith promised to introduce after becoming premier last year. It seeks to allow the province to refuse to enforce specific federal laws or policies “that violate the jurisdictional rights of Alberta.”

Smith, 52, campaigned on an “Alberta First” slogan but the act does not allow the province to split from Canada or to defy Canada’s Constitution. Some legal experts have said that courts could block the act although it has not been put to the test yet. Similarly, the province of Saskatchewan approved last year legislation to defend its economic autonomy from federal overreach, sparking plans by First Nations communities to challenge it in court.


Under the act, Alberta’s legislative assembly can pass a motion that identifies a specific federal program or legislation as unconstitutional or causing harm to Albertans.

The act could be used, for example, to fight federal regulation of new energy projects, climate change legislation, vaccination policies and gun control laws – issues that have historically been divisive in Alberta.

Alberta, which is usually led by conservative governments, has a long history of fighting Ottawa over its resources, including the federal National Energy Program in the 1980s.


The trigger is the federal government’s clean electricity regulations, which were announced in August. Smith has criticized the draft regulations as “irresponsible” and said they would endanger grid reliability.

Smith argues that the province is activating the act to protect Alberta power companies from having to limit the use of highly-polluting natural gas-burning plants.

Electricity falls under provincial jurisdiction in Canada.

The draft electricity regulations aim to create a net-zero emissions power grid in Canada by 2035, but Alberta says the province’s power generators can only reach that goal by 2050.

The Pembina Institute, a think tank, has said Alberta can affordably cut net emissions by 2035 as it adopts more wind and solar energy.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers has said it was concerned the electricity regulations would cause investment uncertainty in the energy sector.

The final rules are due to come into force on Jan. 1, 2025, after a series of consultations.


Smith, a former journalist and leader of the right-wing Wildrose Party, has consistently criticized Trudeau, something that strikes a chord with her core rural Alberta voter base. She argues the act will enable Alberta to assert its constitutional rights and protect against “the destructive overreach of Ottawa”.

But some legal experts say it would be unconstitutional under Canada’s laws and likely be struck down in court.

The implementation of the act could be cumbersome as the provincial government would have to vote on every piece of federal legislation it disagrees with and could deter investment in the province, lawyers have previously told Reuters.

Former conservative premier Jason Kenney has blasted the Alberta Sovereignty Act as a “full-frontal attack on the rule of law” that risked turning Alberta into a “banana republic”.

(Writing by Denny Thomas and Rod Nickel; Editing by Deepa Babington)

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