By Nia Williams (Reuters) – Danielle Smith, 51, was elected leader of Alberta’s ruling United Conservative Party on Thursday and will become 19th premier of Canada’s main oil-producing province. She campaigned on an “Alberta First” slogan with a promise to introduce the Alberta Sovereignty Act, which would enable the province to ignore federal laws that […]
Factbox-Danielle Smith wins Alberta premiership race vowing to table sovereignty bill
By Nia Williams
(Reuters) – Danielle Smith, 51, was elected leader of Alberta’s ruling United Conservative Party on Thursday and will become 19th premier of Canada’s main oil-producing province.
She campaigned on an “Alberta First” slogan with a promise to introduce the Alberta Sovereignty Act, which would enable the province to ignore federal laws that it does not like and could reignite a movement to separate Alberta rest of Canada.
Legal experts say courts could block the act but, if passed, it may deter investment in Alberta.
Below are details of Smith’s political career to date and policy promises:
WHAT IS THE ALBERTA SOVEREIGNTY ACT?
Smith’s most eye-catching policy is a promise to immediately table the Alberta Sovereignty Act, allowing the province to refuse to enforce specific federal laws or policies “that violate the jurisdictional rights of Alberta.”
This could include federal regulation of new energy projects, climate change legislation, vaccination policies and gun control laws.
Smith, who is most popular in rural Alberta, says the act will enable Alberta to assert its constitutional rights and protect against “the destructive overreach of Ottawa”.
But many legal experts say it would be unconstitutional under Canada’s laws and likely be struck down in court.
If Alberta were to pass the act, it could be cumbersome for the provincial government to vote on every piece of federal legislation it disagrees with and could deter investment in the province, said Alan Ross, regional managing partner at Borden, Ladner, Gervais in Calgary.
“Companies are looking at Danielle Smith’s proposal and wondering what sort of uncertainty that may create, Ross said.
Outgoing premier Kenney blasted the Alberta Sovereignty Act as a “full-frontal attack on the rule of law” that risked turning Alberta into a “banana republic” and bringing it to the brink of separation from Canada.
WHAT IS DANIELLE SMITH’S BACKGROUND?
Smith, a former journalist, was leader of the right-wing Wildrose Party from 2009 to 2014, when she led a mass Wildrose defection to join Premier Jim Prentice’s Progressive Conservatives (PCs).
Angered by Smith’s betrayal, voters in her electoral riding nominated a different candidate to run for the PCs in the 2015 provincial election, which the party lost anyway.
She revived her career with a stint as a talk radio host and remained relevant to Alberta politics by interviewing prominent lawmakers including Premier Jason Kenney.
Smith opposed public health restrictions including lockdowns and vaccine mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic.
WHO IS DANIELLE SMITH’S SUPPORT BASE?
Smith is liked by right-wing Albertans particularly in rural areas, and appeals to anti-establishment views in a province where a small minority intermittently calls for independence from the rest of Canada.
She is also pitching to Albertans alienated by public health measures imposed during the pandemic, including those who supported the trucker convoy protests in earlier this year.
(Reporting by Nia Williams; Editing by Josie Kao)