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Alberta threatens use of Sovereignty Act in throne speech

The Alberta government intends to lower electricity and auto insurance costs, as well as use the Sovereignty Act against the federal government if it tries to implement emissions caps or a net-zero electricity grid by 2035, Lt.-Gov. Salma Lakhani said in Monday’s throne speech. 

The speech, which outlines the province’s priorities, marks the start of Alberta’s 31st legislature. It comes five months after Premier Danielle Smith and her United Conservative Party won a majority government.

The speech focuses on affordability issues as well as grievances against the federal government. Ottawa is called one of the “powerful forces” in Canada forcing Albertans to fundamentally alter our provincial economy and way of life.”

The province is prepared to use the Sovereignty within a United Canada Act in order to ignore legislation implemented by the federal government. 

At a news conference Monday, Smith said motions could be used against emissions caps on oil, gas, methane, and fertilizer, and the plan to make the electricity grid net-zero by 2035, which she contends is not realistic. 

“Those are all circumstances that if they proceed unilaterally, we would have to defend our constitutional jurisdiction,” she said. 

Smith believes the recent Supreme Court opinion on the constitutionality of the Impact Assessment Act backs up her assertion that Alberta has sole jurisdiction over these areas. 

Smith also suggested the government would even put money toward new natural gas electricity generation plants to “de-risk” them in light of the federal plan for the zero-emissions grid. 

“Whatever it takes to be able to get natural gas plants built,” she said. “Right now, no one is offering up a large-scale natural gas because of the uncertainty that’s been created.”

High-speed rail?

The throne speech listed other actions the government plans to take, albeit in broad strokes with few details. 

On the affordability front, the government is promising a package of “substantive reforms” to bring down high electricity prices. 

That includes adding supply generated by natural gas plants to the grid, and ensuring the market isn’t subject to manipulation. Smith said the regulated rate option is a misnomer as it gives people a false sense of security. 

“We will very likely abandon that terminology and talk about variable rates versus fixed rates,” she said. 

The province also intends to provide incentives to homeowners who install solar panels or add other energy-efficient products to their homes. 

Smith said a new regulatory regime for renewable energy will be introduced in early 2024, adding that the current pause on project approvals will not be extended past February. 

Albertans can expect reforms to auto insurance when the current rate freeze expires at the end of this year. The measures will limit premium increases for good drivers and help insurance companies keep their costs down. 

The throne speech indicates changes to Alberta Health Services promised by Smith will be introduced soon. The measures will decentralize decision making and move more resources and staff to the front lines. 

The government is promising to plan for rail between the Calgary airport and Banff, as well as a high-speed line along the Calgary-Red Deer-Edmonton corridor. 

The throne speech will be followed by the introduction of the Taxpayer Protection Amendment Act, the government’s first piece of proposed legislation. The throne speech says the bill would require increases to personal or business taxes to be approved via a referendum. 

The order paper, published on the Legislative Assembly of Alberta website, shows four other pieces of legislation are coming soon: Alberta Pension Protection Act, Opioid Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Amendment Act, Tax Statutes Amendment Act and the Public Sector Employer Amendment Act.

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