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Alberta Premier Smith wants to 'reset' federal-provincial relationship while eyeing sovereignty act

Fresh off leading Alberta's United Conservative Party to a majority victory on Monday night, Premier Danielle Smith says she wants to "reset" her relationship with the federal government, while readying to invoke the province's sovereignty act over emissions targets, if needed.

"I think that we can work collaboratively, and that's what I've asked the prime minister. I said I'd love to reset our relationship," Smith said in an interview on CTV News Channel's Power Play with Vassy Kapelos in Calgary. "I'd love to be able to work together on things that we can agree on, because I don't think the country benefits by seeing Alberta shut its economy down. And I think that the country benefits when we do well."

In her election-night speech, Smith took aim at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's energy policies as "harmful" and called on the federal government to "show it is willing to partner in good faith" to find ways to reduce emissions.

Congratulating Smith, Trudeau said he plans to "continue to work on growing the economy, on fighting climate change and on supporting Albertans into the future."

Asked Tuesday to respond to federal Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson suggesting to reporters that a re-elected UCP government wouldn't impede on federal climate change initiatives, Smith said that is true as Alberta is on-side with the "aspiration" of being carbon-neutral by 2050, but it's how the country gets there that she has concerns with.

"If you try to compress that [target] into too short a timeframe, when the technology isn't available, and there's not enough time to do it, it results in production caps. And when they've put forward ideas of a 30 per cent reduction in emissions in fertilizer… when they started talking about 'just transitioning' oil and natural gas workers completely out of out of existence, and when they brought through a proposal for a net-zero power grid by 2035… Those are things that we have to fight back against," Smith said.

While Wilkinson said the two jurisdictions don’t have to agree on everything, and indicated openness to trying to find areas for ways to find consensus, he thinks Albertans, like other Canadians, "believe in climate change and the importance of addressing it."

When asked what lengths Smith is prepared to go to push back, and whether that would include invoking Alberta's controversial sovereignty act, or seek a Supreme Court challenge, the newly re-elected UCP leader didn't rule out either route.

"If you have an emissions cap that is so aggressive, that results in a production cap, that does interfere with our jurisdiction. And that's what I think that their aggressive targets are. And, it may ultimately be up to the court that to have to decide this, and I think we'll win… I think the court will side with us," Smith said.

The premier said that she thinks it would be a "different debate" now that there is a global energy and affordability crisis.

Asked if she has obtained a legal opinion to this effect, Smith said it was something that she was going to "work on."

As for the sovereignty act option, Smith said she's "always said" the two reasons she could foresee using it, "is if the federal government came through with an aggressive emissions cap on fertilizer, and an aggressive emissions cap on oil and gas… Because I think that's a violation of the Constitution."

"I'd be prepared to fight that one out," Smith said.

This is not the first time Smith has signalled plans to take the fight to Ottawa for Alberta’s autonomy to develop its resources, voicing similar intentions in an interview on CTV's Power Play in October 2022 after winning the UCP leadership race. 

Watch the full interview with Danielle Smith at the top of this article.



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