Alberta finance minister says Danielle Smith's sovereignty act is 'very problematic' for UCP

Nixon said he doubted the act, which seeks to allow Alberta to refuse enforcement of any specific federal law or policy that goes against its interests, would pass in the legislature.

Jason Nixon says the act would break the law, rattle markets and be impossible to deliver

Alberta Finance Minister Jason Nixon said he doubted Danielle Smith's proposed Alberta Sovereignty Act would pass in the legislature. (Michelle Bellefontaine/CBC)

Alberta Finance Minister Jason Nixon says United Conservative Party leadership candidate Danielle Smith's proposed Alberta sovereignty act is "very problematic" for the party and would be impossible to deliver.

On Wednesday, Nixon also said he doubted such legislation — which seeks to allow Alberta to refuse enforcement of any specific federal law or policy that goes against its interests — would pass in the legislature.

"I would caution anybody who wants to lead our party about overpromising things that we know that cannot be delivered," said Nixon, adding he hasn't talked to Smith directly about the idea.

Nixon, the government's house leader, said there are three "major problems" with the act: it would break the law, it would spook investors and rock the market, and it's not possible to deliver on.

Smith's Alberta sovereignty act is a key part of her platform.

Nixon said he understands the frustrations some Albertans have with the federal government, but this act isn't the solution. 

"Telling Albertans that you can accomplish something that you can't accomplish is very problematic long term for our party," said Nixon.

"Governments in our province have been fighting this fight for a very long time, and to present to Albertans in any way that there's some magical solution that the legislature could pass tomorrow that would somehow make all these problems go away is not factual, and that is what I would urge caution on now," said Nixon.

In a statement to CBC News, Smith said her proposed act "will empower the Alberta Legislature to refuse enforcement of any specific Federal Government law or policy that violates Alberta's provincial rights under s.92 of the Constitution or the Charter of Rights and Freedoms of Albertans."

She added that the act would only be used after a free vote of all MLAs in the legislature has been held on whether to use it and how it will be used to oppose a federal law.

"My guess is such a vote would pass with a healthy margin," said Smith.

Act is unconstitutional and illegal, says political scientist

Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt agrees with Nixon's assessment of Smith's proposed act. 

"It would be unconstitutional, it would be illegal. It would lead to a risky investment climate in Alberta," said Bratt.

"These are promises that can be made, but would never happen that are impossible," he said.

Leadership race intervention

Bratt also found it notable that Nixon, a senior member of the party, is directly intervening in the leadership race on the deadline date for applicants to register to compete for the party's top position. 

"We are seeing a real disconnect between one of the top UCP leadership candidates and the current UCP government," said Bratt.

"We're seeing a major policy proposal, by what could be considered one of the front-runners in the leadership race, being directly attacked by a senior minister in the Kenney government."

Nixon said he has not endorsed any leadership candidates yet, but then went on to say it was a "great pleasure" to serve with former finance minister Travis Toews.

"I think that he's the best candidate to lead this party."

UCP members will choose a new leader to replace Jason Kenney in October following a mail-in ballot.


Dominika Lirette


Dominika Lirette is a reporter at CBC Calgary. Twitter: @LiretteDominika

With files from Janet French and Michelle Bellefontaine