Premier Jason Kenney said Alberta’s lieutenant-governor Salma Lakhani was just explaining her duties when asked about United Conservative Party leadership candidate Danielle Smith’s proposed “Alberta Sovereignty Act.”
On Thursday, Lakhani said it’s not a done deal that she would automatically sign off on a proposal to pass a bill aimed at ignoring federal laws and court rulings.
Lakhani said she would seek legal advice as required, but says she is duty-bound to ensure the Constitution is followed.
“We will try and cross that bridge when we get to it, and we will get the appropriate advice that we need as to whether we can sign, whether it’s against our Constitution,” she told reporters.
“We are a constitutional monarchy, and this is where we keep checks and balances… I’m what I would call a constitutional fire extinguisher. We don’t have to use it a lot, but sometimes we do.”
In an interview with Shaye Ganam on 770 CHQR on Friday morning, Kenney said Lakhani is part of the lawmaking process even though many see her role as a ceremonial one.
“The lieutenant-governor represents the Queen… Her office is part of the lawmaking process, as part of our system of government,” Kenney said.
“I think she was trying to deflect (reporters’ questions) and say that as lieutenant-governor, she has responsibilities and she will exercise them thoughtfully.”
Kenney said Lakhani’s statement isn’t without precedent. In 1936, then lieutenant-governor Philip C.H. Primrose did not grant Royal Assent for a law proposed by former Premier William Aberhart’s government to grant Alberta money printing powers, which Kenney said caused a constitutional crisis.
“God forbid we should ever be in a situation like that again,” Kenney said. “The lieutenant-governor would be in a very awkward position if the legislature decides to pass a law saying it will not enforce the laws.”
In an emailed press release on Friday afternoon, Smith said Lakhani’s comments were an “unprecedented” and “inappropriate” political interference in Alberta’s democratic process.
She also said the lieutenant-governor does not have authority to refuse Royal Assent to bills passed by the provincial legislature and asked Lakhani to walk back her comments.
However, section 55 of the Constitution Act grants lieutenant governors the right to “reserve” Royal Assent to bills. The bill is then referred to the federal government and must receive assent by the Queen-in-Council in order to take effect, according to section 57.
Smith declined 770 CHQR’s request for an interview. Instead, her spokesperson, Matthew Altheim, referred to Smith’s video and statement on Twitter in response.
–with files from The Canadian Press