Sask. political leaders have little to say about Alberta's proposed Sovereignty Act
Saskatchewan First Act different from new Alberta act
The Alberta government's Sovereignty Act received national attention this week, but in Saskatchewan, political leaders had little to say about it.
New Alberta Premier Danielle Smith's United Conservative Party leadership campaign centred around the act, which was tabled in the Alberta Legislature on Tuesday as the Alberta Sovereignty Within A United Canada Act, and generated plenty of reaction and analysis.
The bill outlines how the Alberta government would not enforce federal legislation, policies or programs it decides are "harmful" to Alberta's interests or infringe on the division of powers in the Constitution.
The bill appears to give cabinet new powers to bypass the legislative assembly and unilaterally amend provincial laws.
The bill "fundamentally upends a number of stabilizing principles in our Canadian constitutional order," said Eric Adams, a constitutional scholar at the University of Alberta.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said Wednesday that he had been briefed on the act.
"I won't say if it goes too far or doesn't go too far," Moe said.
"What I would say is all of these acts are going to have rightful scrutiny from Opposition members and others and that is a good thing. They do need to be within the confines of laws that we have in our nation."
Moe pivoted to talking about his government's Saskatchewan First Act, which he said aims to "take up our full constitutional authority. If that is the goal of the Alberta Sovereignty Act in a little different way, we are supportive of provinces doing that."
Moe and his government have said the Saskatchewan First Act will be within the Canadian Constitution. It aims to confirm the province's autonomy and jurisdiction over its natural resources.
"We're not looking to expand the provincial jurisdictional powers we have," Moe said.
He said he had spoken to Smith about Saskatchewan's proposed legislation, but not Alberta's act.
After the Saskatchewan government introduced its bill, Smith posted a tweet in support, saying the two provinces were "pushing back Ottawa."
As provinces, we have certain rights & responsibilities afforded to us under the constitution. <br><br>It is great to see Saskatchewan, under the leadership of <a href="https://twitter.com/PremierScottMoe?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@PremierScottMoe</a>, taking charge!<br><br>Read More: <a href="https://t.co/leXWhQiboG">https://t.co/leXWhQiboG</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cdnpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#cdnpoli</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/abpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#abpoli</a> <a href="https://t.co/3PA2Kqj4RO">pic.twitter.com/3PA2Kqj4RO</a>—@ABDanielleSmith
Moe spoke after a portrait unveiling for former premier Brad Wall on Wednesday.
Wall spoke to reporters following the ceremony and was asked if he had any opinion of the Alberta bill.
"I wouldn't comment," Wall said. "I was long enough in politics to know that I probably shouldn't comment hypothetically on something I haven't read."
Wall did weigh in on the Saskatchewan First Act.
"I think it's a reasonable thing for the province of Saskatchewan to stake out its jurisdictional authority, especially in areas of natural resource development, but not limited to those things. There are shared jurisdictions in our Constitution."
Wall said the provinces should challenge the federal government regardless of who is in power to show they "take these issues seriously and will explore options to protect [their] interests."
Opposition questioned on vote over Saskatchewan First Act
On Wednesday, Opposition Leader Carla Beck declined to weigh in on Alberta's bill as well, saying she had not yet read it in detail.
Beck was also asked about the Saskatchewan First Act. On Monday evening, a vote on the second reading of the bill received support from government members and six Opposition members.
The bill now moves to the committee stage, where it can be discussed and the Opposition can ask questions of the minister and officials.
Second readings can be approved through a voice-only vote, but the vote on the bill Monday was recorded. Moe tweeted that the bill passed second reading with the "full support of Saskatchewan Party members and NDP MLAs."
The Opposition has faced pushback on social media for its "support" of the bill.
Beck defended the Opposition's decision to move the bill to the next stage.
"During second reading speeches, it's not a place where we can ask questions of the minister," Beck said.
"This is an opportunity for people in the province to have a meaningful say to ask those questions in committee. Not where the government controls the floor."
Beck said her party has raised concerns about lack of consultation with Indigenous groups on the act, and will be able to propose amendments and call witnesses at committee.
First Nations and Métis leaders are among those demanding answers about the act.
In November, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, which represents Saskatchewan's First Nations, publicly opposed the bill. The FSIN said the government failed in its duty to consult, and that the act infringes on inherent and treaty rights.
A few weeks later, the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan assembly unanimously rejected the Saskatchewan First Act and called for the bill to be withdrawn, saying it "does nothing to advance or recognize Métis rights."
In an interview with CBC News on Thursday, FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said he has spoken to Premier Scott Moe since the act was introduced, but that the FSIN's position remains the same.
"We never surrendered these lands. We only agreed to share them."
Cameron said he is concerned the act will make it more difficult for First Nations to benefit from industries like agriculture, mining and forestry.
"I would like to see a handwritten paper from the provincial elected leaders saying this is our 100 per cent guarantee that First Nations people are going to be, one, full partners in resource development, and two, beneficiaries of all resources in this province we call traditional ancestral lands, because those are our resources."
Cameron said the FSIN is considering legal action.
Moe and Saskatchewan Justice Minister Bronwyn Eyre have maintained the act will not impact the treaty relationship.
"It doesn't change the intentions the government has to include all Saskatchewan people, Indigenous or otherwise, in the economy. What the act is focused on is to make sure we have the focus on Saskatchewan so we can collectively benefit," Moe said Wednesday.
Listen to Saskatoon Morning's political panel with CBC's Adam Hunter and Post Media columnist Murray Mandryk as they discuss the Saskatchewan First Act and the week's political events:
With files from Samantha Samson, Alexander Quon and CBC News