Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has invoked the Emergencies Act, and Alberta’s premier is opposed to its use in the province.
In separate press conferences on Monday, Jason Kenney said Alberta has the legal tools required to address the ongoing blockade at the Coutts border crossing.
“The view I have, which I conveyed to the prime minister during the forum of first ministers this morning, is that this is not necessary, at least for an Alberta context,” Kenney said.
“We don’t believe this is necessary in Alberta. We think it could actually be somewhat counterproductive.”
Kenney referenced the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act, legislation that allows law enforcement to arrest and fine anyone impeding what is deemed critical economic infrastructure, including railways and highways.
He said the legislation gives the province sanctions “that are quite similar to the court injunction obtained by Ontario” to break up a blockade on the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ont., over the weekend.
Kenney said he is concerned invoking the Emergencies Act could have the potential to make things worse at the Coutts blockade.
“I think at this point, for the federal government to reach in over top of us, without offering anything in particular, would frankly be unhelpful,” Kenney said.
“I think we need to find ways to effectively enforce without escalating the situation.”
Kenney’s comments come after several arrests were made and more than a dozen long guns, handguns, ammunition and body armour were seized at the blockade. The premier described the group as a “militant cell” and said it’s why there has been “a relatively light touch on enforcement.”
It’s the first time the Emergencies Act has been enacted in Canada, which Trudeau said would have a time and geographic limitation to areas impacted by the blockades and where law enforcement deems the expanded powers are needed.
According to Trudeau, the expanded powers will give police more tools for enforcement and allow the RCMP to enforce municipal bylaws and provincial offences where it’s necessary.
“The potential for violent acts I think remains. The economic damage remains huge,” Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt said. “I think this is something that the federal government had to do.”
The blockade in Coutts has entered its third week, which has raised concerns for business groups like the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.
According to Ruhee Ismail-Teja, the chamber’s director of policy and communications, the supply chain interruptions have impacted several sectors in the local economy and will take several weeks to return to normal.
“We anticipate that these issues will last for quite a while,” Ismail-Teja said.
“Businesses will see the effects of supply chains, of inflation, possibly of labour issues where employees are sitting on the sidelines waiting for goods to be delivered before they can proceed with their operations.”
Kenney maintained he wants to see a resolution at the border blockade in southern Alberta and urged the federal government to work to de-escalate the situation by indicating the prime minister is working with the Biden administration to lift the cross-border vaccine mandate for truckers.
“Provinces, under our constitution, are responsible for law enforcement, and we are perfectly capable of doing that,” Kenney said. “I am concerned what the implications of this are, what precedent this might set.”