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Alberta Premier Danielle Smith to use Sovereignty Act on proposed energy regulations

While on her radio show Saturday, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said she is going to use the Alberta Sovereignty within a United Canada Act on Monday to protect energy companies from the proposed Clean Energy Regulations (CER).

On “Your Province, Your Premier,” Smith was asked if a CBC report published Friday that said she would invoke the act to fight against the plan to cut emissions was true or false.

The report states the province will use the law to introduce a resolution that declares the federal government’s plan to cut grid emissions an “unconstitutional federal measure,” and “spell out ways the regulations would not be enforced in Alberta.”

“Well, true. But people will have to wait until Monday to see the architecture of it,” Smith said on the radio show.

The federal government’s draft of the CER was released in mid-August, and it is meant to clean up Canada’s electricity grid in an affordable way by 2035. The regulations would drive up the cost of energy slightly, but federal officials say that would be offset by the savings expected to come from moving away from fossil fuels.

The country’s economy is set at being carbon neutral by 2050.

Watch: Alberta Premier says 2035 emissions target is too costly and risky

Smith has threatened the use of the Sovereignty Act since the draft was announced, including since September when she announced a country-wide ad campaign meant to highlight how the regulations will make it “more expensive for Canadians.”

“I’ve had it with Steven Guilbeault, the environment minister,” Smith said on her radio show Saturday.

“They’ve lost two court cases now, one at the Supreme Court level and one at a federal court level, saying they have to stay in their lane. Their lane is clearly not electricity.”

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled the Impact Assessment Act, the Liberals’ environmental impact law, unconstitutional because it interferes with provincial jurisdiction. In addition, the single-use plastics ban was also overturned, but the federal government is working on an appeal.

Smith says her government has been trying to work with the federal government on the 2035 goal, saying generators would not be able to achieve that goal.

Alberta’s United Conservative Party (UCP) government is instead pushing for a 2050 net-zero goal.

“We will not put our operators at risk of going to jail … if they do not achieve the targets that have been set which we believe are unachievable,” Smith said.

“We have to have a reliable grid. We have to have an affordable grid. And we’re going to make sure that we defend our constitutional jurisdiction to do that.”

The controversial bill was passed late into the night, days after Smith won her Brooks-Medicine Hat riding following the UCP leadership race.

At this time, the regulations are in draft form, and it’s unclear when they will be finalized. However, the bill allows the province to act against any “federal initiative,” which means a federal law, program, policy, agreement or action, or a proposed or anticipated federal law, program, policy, agreement or action.

Under the bill, cabinet ministers or Smith would decide whether federal rules are harmful to Alberta. The bill does not give a legal definition of what constitutes harm.

“I don’t want to do this,” Smith said. “From the very first conversation I had with Justin Trudeau, I wanted to work with him on this. We put it together on the table with the negotiators so that we could find areas of common ground.”

However, she says Guilbeault is a “maverick” and doesn’t care about the law or the constitution.

“I do and we’re going to make sure that we assert that,” the Alberta premier said.

CityNews has reached out to the office of the federal environmental minister for comment.

The resolution will be tabled for debate and approval in the United Conservative Party-dominated legislature as early as Monday.

-With files from The Canadian Press

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