When asked recently about the collateral damage to other provinces resulting from Alberta walking away from the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) with over half its assets, Premier Smith declared, “I’ve got to put the interests of Albertans first.”
When it comes to Alberta’s concerns about the collateral damage of Ottawa’s proposed Clean Electricity Regulations (CER), the same Premier Smith is convinced that a national ad campaign will generate some sympathy for our cause.
Now, it may well be that other provinces have varying levels of concern over the CER, but it’s rather conceited of us to believe that we must call their attention to that fact. Ultimately, though, the idea that we can have it both ways here is wishful thinking at best. Unfortunately, we’re seeing a lot of that from the government as of late.
The whole premise that Alberta would be entitled to over 50 per cent of the CPP’s assets is perhaps the most obvious — and consequential — example of such wishful thinking. It is based on a rather questionable (to put it charitably) interpretation of the CPP exit formula and is completely oblivious to the political reality that the federal government and every other province in the CPP would never allow it to happen.
Yet, the Alberta government’s messaging on the merits of an Alberta Pension Plan — including yet another ad campaign in addition to a rather torqued survey — is all based on the premise that this is a settled matter. It’s not only delusional but does a disservice to an important debate. There are still arguments for leaving the CPP that don’t involve living in a dream world.
It may not be the only dream world Alberta’s political leaders are inhabiting. As part of the announcement last week of the “Tell the Feds” ad campaign against Ottawa’s CER, the premier mused about using the contentious sovereignty act.
When asked about possible responses to an intransigent federal government, Smith replied, “We’re preparing a sovereignty act motion, and I’m hoping we don’t have to use it.”
Well, if there’s a tool at the Alberta government’s disposal to block the imposition of a damaging federal policy, why would that be a last resort and not the first course of action? If we can just tell the feds, “Sorry, guys — can’t do that here,” why not just do that now and be done with it?
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It is once again wishful thinking to believe that there’s anything Alberta can do about the CER other than to either work with Ottawa to find a compromise or go to court and argue that Ottawa is infringing on clear provincial jurisdiction. There is nothing the sovereignty act can do, and it is delusional to think otherwise.
For one, the Alberta government isn’t being asked or ordered to do anything by the federal government. Were that the case, Alberta could simply refuse (which would make any sort of sovereignty act declaration merely redundant).
Moreover, the process under the sovereignty act involves passing a motion which would then direct cabinet to propose possible legislative changes that could fight back against whatever the identified threat happens to be. It’s impossible to envision any sort of legislative changes that Alberta could make concerning the imposition of the CER, but if there is such a change that could be made, then why bother with the sovereignty act? Why not simply proceed with the relevant legislative amendments?
There is no secret legislative shortcut or constitutional magic wand that Alberta can use to thwart Ottawa’s net-zero targets for the electricity grid. Alberta has good reason to be concerned about the impact of those plans as they presently stand and Alberta has a valid point about provincial jurisdiction on matters pertaining to electricity.
It isn’t just that all this fanciful fantasizing makes the government look silly. It’s damaging their credibility, which in turn undermines the very causes they’re championing.
“Afternoons with Rob Breakenridge” airs weekdays 12:30-3 p.m. on QR Calgary