Alberta to Invoke Sovereignty Act Against Feds’ Clean Electricity Regulations

Premier Danielle Smith says she won’t risk Alberta’s power operators ‘going to jail’ if they don’t achieve Ottawa’s goal of a net-zero electricity grid by 2035.
Alberta to Invoke Sovereignty Act Against Feds’ Clean Electricity Regulations
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith speaks to the party faithful at the United Conservative Party annual general meeting in Calgary on Nov. 4, 2023. (The Canadian Press/Jeff McIntosh)
Isaac Teo
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has confirmed she will invoke the province’s Sovereignty Act on Nov. 27 to protect its power companies from Ottawa’s Clean Electricity Regulations (CER).

Speaking at a morning radio show on Nov. 25, Ms, Smith said the federal plan to impose a net-zero electricity system by 2035 is not only “unachievable” but also risks wrecking Alberta’s power grid.

“We will not put our operators at risk of going to jail if they do not achieve the unachievable,” she said Nov. 25 on her weekly radio show “Your Province. Your Premier.”

“We have to have a reliable grid, we have to have an affordable grid, and we’re going to make sure that we defend our constitutional jurisdiction to do that.”

Under the Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act, which was adopted in December 2022, the province can reject federal rules that it deems as going against the interests of the province and infringing on its jurisdiction. The act has so far not been used or tested in court, and Ms. Smith had said previously she would only use it as a last resort.
Ms. Smith said the CER disregards Section 92 of the federal Constitution Act, which says the “development, conservation and management of sites and facilities in the province for the generation and production of electrical energy” fall under provincial jurisdiction.

‘Stay in Their Lane’

In October, the Trudeau government was dealt a blow when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the federal Impact Assessment Act, which evaluates how major projects such as coal mines and oilsands plants impact the environment, is largely unconstitutional.
A month later, on Nov. 16, a Federal Court judge struck down a cabinet order to classify all plastic products as toxic as “unreasonable and unconstitutional.”

Ms. Smith noted both cases in which the federal Liberals lost.

“They’ve lost two court cases now,” she said on the radio show. “[The courts are] saying they have to stay in their lane. Now, their lane is clearly not electricity.”

In response to the Federal Court ruling in November, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said the government will appeal the decision. He argued that “the body of scientific evidence showing the impacts on human health, on the environment, of plastic pollution is undebatable.”
At a press conference on Oct. 26, Mr. Guilbeault told reporters that Ottawa intended to amend its Impact Assessment Act and seek the “shortest path forward” to bring the act into compliance with the Constitution. He did not give a timeline or clarify what he believed needed to be changed, but seemed optimistic that the approach would work.

“I think what the Supreme Court told us is that there are elements of the act in its current form, where the federal government could surpass its authorities,” he said.

Besides Alberta, Ottawa’s net-zero targets also received pushback from Saskatchewan. In August, Premier Scott Moe said the CER is “simply not achievable.”
“We will not ask our residents to pay the extraordinary price for the federal government’s divisive policies, nor will we risk the integrity of our provincial power grid to defy the laws of thermodynamics,” Mr. Moe said in a statement posted on X on Aug. 10.


On Nov. 16, Mr. Moe proceeded to introduce a bill to have SaskEnergy remove the federal carbon tax from residential customers’ natural gas bills starting Jan. 1, 2024.
The SaskEnergy (Carbon Tax Fairness for Families) Amendment Act would designate the provincial government as the sole registered distributor of natural gas in Saskatchewan.

The move was made to protect Crown corporation SaskEnergy and all of its current and former directors, officers, employees, and other associates from any legal consequences of not remitting the carbon tax.

Ms. Smith said Alberta had tried to work collaboratively with the federal government with a net-zero emissions plan by 2050.

“I have to tell you, I don’t want to do this. I really did, from the very first conversation I had with Justin Trudeau, say I wanted to work with him on this. We put it together the table with the negotiators so we could find areas of common ground,'' she said on the radio show.

Mr. Guilbeault’s approach, however, has made it challenging for her province to get on board, the premier said.

“Steven Guilbeault, I don’t know, he’s a maverick. He doesn’t seem to care about the law, doesn’t care about the Constitution. I do, and we’re going to make sure that we assert that.”

In an email statement to The Epoch Times on Nov. 27, Mr. Guilbeault said the government has “been collaborating in good faith on clean electricity investments and regulations” with Alberta in a working group.

“[The group] was created at the request of Alberta with the express intent to work through these issues collaboratively,” he said, adding that the province “has never brought up a Constitutional veto at the negotiating table.”

He said federal regulations “are designed with many flexibilities to ensure they are realistic and accommodate Alberta’s needs.”

Mr. Guilbeault also challenged claims that non-compliance with the CER would lead to imprisonment. He referred to an Oct. 27 column he wrote for the Calgary Herald, where he called such claims “false assertions” and “an outrageous threat.”

“Almost a quarter-century of regulation under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act demonstrates that non-compliance is addressed with warnings, compliance orders and gradually larger fines,” the column said.

The Epoch Times reached out to the Prime Minister Office for comment but didn’t receive a reply by publication time.

Chandra Philip, Matthew Horwood, and Reuters contributed to this report.