Opposition organization holds anti-sovereignty act protest at legislature

Click to play video: 'Sovereignty act sparks rallies at Alberta Legislature'
Sovereignty act sparks rallies at Alberta Legislature
WATCH: MLAs were not in the legislature Sunday, but outside, the first bill of the session was being hotly debated. Dozens of people gathered both in opposition and support of Alberta’s proposed sovereignty act. Nicole Stillger reports – Dec 4, 2022

An opposition organization hosted an anti-sovereignty act rally outside the Alberta legislature on Sunday afternoon, making it clear that people aligned with the NDP party are not in favour of the new UCP bill.

The sovereignty bill, which was introduced to the province’s legislature last week by Premier Danielle Smith, has received a lot of criticism, especially from the NDP.

Alberta’s Democracy, the organization hosting the protest, said in a press release “the act is far worse than anyone could have predicted… As a community, we have a responsibility to mobilize against this undemocratic power grab by Premier Smith.”

The bill aims to allow the province to refuse to follow federal laws it deems unfair to Albertans. A clause in the act originally granted cabinet sweeping powers to make decisions for Alberta — without having to go through the legislature.

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After much scrutiny, Premier Smith is now backpedaling, saying decisions will always go through the legislature. She has chalked up this “misunderstanding” to “awkward wording” that she and her cabinet are now working to amend.

“This bill is beyond saving,” said NDP economic development critic Deron Bilous during an unrelated press conference Sunday. “It must be revoked. It must be stopped. Too much damage has already been caused.

“The absolute last thing we need right now is weeks of backtracking and clarification — that just brings more uncertainty. It’s time to restore peace of mind for investors, it’s time to restore confidence in our laws and in our economy. I am here to make it clear that Alberta’s NDP will not support amendments to this law.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta introduces sovereignty act bill. What does the proposed new legislation mean?'
Alberta introduces sovereignty act bill. What does the proposed new legislation mean?

The premier’s office responded to the NDP’s remarks in a statement to Global News that read, in part: “It’s disappointing to see the NDP vote against Bill 1 before seeing it or to propose any amendments they feel would strengthen the bill, which shows they’re not willing to stand up for Albertans against the Trudeau-Singh coalition’s continuous attacks on our economy and provincial rights.

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“The intent of the Alberta Sovereignty within a United Canada Act is to enable the legislative assembly to direct Cabinet to take action to defend the interests of Albertans; however, the Premier will be will be speaking to her caucus on Monday about potential amendments to ensure this fact is crystal clear in the final legislation when it is ultimately voted on in 3rd reading.”

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Approximately 100 Albertans gathered outside the legislature in downtown Edmonton, both in favour of and against the bill.

Haruun Ali, co-chair of Alberta Democracy, said the whole bill is “poison” and that it’s “undemocratic.”

“This bill is trying to salvage something that, to be frank, should not have even been introduced… This is a rise in authoritarianism across this continent, and what we need to see is… loud action from people that are ready to fight against this,” he said.

He said that allowing the cabinet to make decisions, rather than have them go through the legislature, is undemocratic, as is minimizing the role of the courts “by allowing her government to determine what is against Alberta’s interests.”

Benita Pedersen was at the rally as part of the counter protest, in favour of sovereignty for Alberta.

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“The sovereignty act is sending a very clear message to Ottawa that Alberta is able to stand on its own two feet for freedom. But freedom is only one side of the coin. The other side of that coin is responsibility,” she said. “We don’t technically need anything from Ottawa.

“It is through conversation of people who disagree that we’ll solve the problems today.”

Protest member outside the Alberta legislture, Dec. 4, 2022. Global News

— With files from Nicole Stillger, Global News

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