Four UCP Leadership Candidates Unify To Attack Danielle Smith’s Sovereignty Act

Written By Wyatt Claypool, Posted on September 8, 2022

At a 10 am press conference this morning, UCP leadership candidates Brian Jean, Travis Toews, Leela Aheer, and Rajan Sawhney, united together to criticize Danielle Smith’s proposed Sovereignty Act plan, which she says will allow the Alberta government to ignore federal policies that in some way infringe on provincial jurisdiction.

Toews speaking first at the press conference stated that:

Alberta must stand up to Ottawa and protect our interests as a province, but the Sovereignty Act is not the way we win. It’s been pitched as the cure-all for Alberta’s position within the nation, but the Act is a false bill of goods that is simply more political bluster, will not deliver the expected outcomes, and will create anger and disillusionment amongst Albertans. 

It requires Albertans and Alberta businesses to risk their livelihoods and disregard federal law. It has been pitched as a remedy for resource corridors and pipeline development. It won’t do that, name a company that will make any investment, much less invest billions of dollars in projects that will take several years, knowingly breaking federal law and risking assets outside of the province. 

Toews also said he and the other candidates disagree with Smith that the Sovereignty Act can stop Trudeau’s travel mandates and the federal carbon tax. 

Rajan Sawhney when it was her time to speak accused Danielle Smith of potentially creating a constitutional crisis in Canada, and that if the Sovereignty Act was in theory constitutional that any other province could invoke the same type of legislation to continue blocking Alberta’s pipelines. 

Sawhney then said:

On the other hand, Danielle has said that the Sovereignty Act would just be a way for the legislature to indicate its disagreement with federal laws by passing a special motion, then we would go to court to sort out who is right, Alberta or the federal government. But this is how things already work, and in this case, the Sovereignty Act is just useless and meaningless virtue signalling.

In a similar vein to Sawhney, when Brian Jean spoke he also went over how the Sovereignty Act as Smith has been describing it, would not be suited to solving actual issues with the federal government.

Jean stated that:

What Danielle seemed to propose seems to be a law to create non-binding motions of the legislature. No motion of the legislature can change a law or change a regulation, or change the legal authorities under which Alberta’s agencies operate. Danielle’s Sovereignty Act will not do what she says it will do. The things Danielle says she will do with the Sovereignty Act are either things that can never happen, like Trudeau’s forcing vaccinations on school kids,…or things that she can never change like federal control over borders or aviation. Danielle is deceiving UCP members about reality. 

Jean then explained that the candidates that showed up to the press conference do not agree with each other on every piece of policy, but they do believe the Sovereignty Act is simply based on lies about how provincial government policy works.

(Photo taken after the end of the press event)

Leela Aheer was the last one up to make a statement where she focused on Danielle Smith misusing Quebec as an example of how the Sovereignty Act would work. 

Aheer said:

She [Danielle Smith] wants you to believe that she will get all of Quebec’s benefits with none of its sacrifices, well let’s talk about that for a moment. Control over immigration and trade, but don’t worry you’re going to get paid less. Control over culture and language, but don’t worry about driving away investment. Autonomy from federal programs, but don’t worry we don’t need to hire thousands and thousands of more bureaucrats to the cost of billions of more dollars to the Alberta public. 

After the leadership candidates’ statements, one reporter asked how the candidates respond to Smith seeing the Soviernety Act as a winning issue in the leadership race and a significant portion of the UCP membership believing it is a feasible plan.

Brian Jean had the most pointed answer to this iniquity by stating, “It’s sort of like raising your arm and saying ‘freedom,’” before Jean then asked, “what’s next?”

What’s next? What are the laws you change? What matters to Albertans? What are you going to do to fix healthcare? What are you going to do to fix our school system so that parents are in charge? What are you going to do to fix our EMS system or our justice system? This Sovereignty Act does not talk about any of it, but those are the things we need to fix and need to work on.

What does Sovereignty do? It gets people excited it fees on the anger, but accomplishes absolutely nothing because there is no pathway except through negotiation and the constitution being open.

The National Telegraph was at the press conference when it happened and spoke to both Brian Jean and Leela Aheer for questions regarding Smith’s motivation to push the Sovereignty Act during the leadership race, and whether or not she would be damaging the UCP’s prospects to win the 2023 election if she became premier due to the Act. 

Jean said regarding Smith running on an electorally risky policy that:

Yes, and some people do that intentionally because they recognize it is the only path to win and then they think they can get redemption afterward by pivoting and some people have been successful with that in the past, but in this particular case I believe the pivot will create more anger and more cynicism in politics and that will take us down a further path of division to a place where Alberta is not as strong.

Being prepared to do anything to win is not a good formula for success. 

Leela Aheer when asked about Smith damaging her chances to win the 2023 provincial election if she becomes premier while still pushing the Sovereignty Act said she believes it will definitely hurt the UCP in 2023, but that she does not believe Smith is intentionally trying to harm the party.

Aheer said:

I think [Danielle Smith] has put a lot of time and energy into her campaign, I think it’s just not thought out, and I think what all of us said collectively, which is the most important thing, is that we are giving her a heads up today, an opportunity to enter the race in a legitimate way because I would love to become the premier, but become the premier because we had a legitimate race.

Danielle Smith’s campaign released a statement in response to the four leadership candidates’ press conference, which is posted below. 

Wyatt Claypool

Wyatt is a student at Mount Royal University, where he is the president of its Campus Conservative club. In his writing, he focuses on covering provincial and federal politics, firearms regulation, and the energy sector. Wyatt has also previously written for The Post Millennial.

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