United Conservative Party (UCP) leadership candidate Danielle Smith is urging Alberta Premier Jason Kenney not to interfere in the ongoing race to replace him.

The warning comes as Kenney said Smith’s Sovereignty Act would make Alberta a  “laughingstock” on his Saturday radio show.

The Premier’s comments regarding the Sovereignty Act are “premature, ill-informed and disrespectful to a large and growing majority of UCP members that support this important initiative,” Smith said in a statement. 

“I would also urge the Premier to focus on being a voice for Party unity and to respect our Party’s democratic leadership process that allows members to select our Leader in an open and transparent selection process without interference from the acting Premier and Leader of the Party,” she wrote. 

The Alberta Sovereignty Act seeks to bar federal legislation deemed harmful to Alberta. It’s a product of the Free Alberta Strategy group, of which Rob Anderson is the co-founder. Anderson took a leave from the group to act as Smith’s campaign chair. 

Weeks into the campaign, Smith said she would introduce legislation to enshrine the Sovereignty Act into law as her first act as Premier, if elected. She touted the proposal as a means to get projects built in Alberta without federal interference and to bar federal vaccine mandates and other pandemic restrictions.

“Albertans are tired of watching Justin Trudeau and Ottawa continuously run over the rights and freedoms of Albertans and they want a leader who will stand and defend our Province without apology; and that is exactly the leader I intend to be,” she said. 

Smith was a vocal critic of Kenney ahead of the leadership race, and announced her intentions to run for Premier long before Kenney said he would resign. She’s now asking the Premier and other critics to reserve their opinion of the Sovereignty Act until they read such legislation.

“If elected to replace (Kenney) as Leader and Premier, I will work closely and collaboratively with our entire UCP Caucus to ensure the Sovereignty Act is drafted, passed, and implemented in accordance with sound constitutional language and principles,” she said. 

Kenney said the proposal  “is nuts.”

“The proposal is for Alberta basically to ignore and violate the Constitution in a way that is unprecedented in Canadian history,” he said. “The province should be focused on realistic, practical ways to fight unfair Ottawa policies.”

Leadership candidates and sitting UCP MLAs  Travis Toews, Rebecca Schulz, Rajan Sawhney and Leela Aheer all took aim at Smith’s pitch during the first leader’s debate last month.

The proposal is “seductive,” but there’s nothing about it that makes sense, Sawhney said, while Aheer argued it’s redundant because we already have the constitution, which enshrines areas of provincial jurisdiction.

There are aspects of the Alberta Sovereignty Act that break the rule of the law, Schulz said. Toews said it would be “delusional” to think the proposal would solve Alberta’s problems when it would actually drive investment away.

Finance Minister Jason Nixon has said the Alberta Sovereignty Act is “problematic” and would be unlikely to be adopted by the Alberta Legislature. 

Independent MLA Todd Loewen is the only candidate besides Smith to support the Act. 

Smith’s proposal is resonating with more UCP MLAs, as evidenced by her growing number of endorsements.

On Thursday, Alberta Labour and Immigration Minister Kaycee Madu was the second cabinet member and seventh UCP MLA to endorse Smith as the best person to take over as Alberta’s premier. That includes two MLAs who pulled their endorsement from former finance minister Travis Toews.

UCP members will elect a new leader and Premier on October 6. 

Alberta Correspondent | + posts

Rachel is a seasoned political reporter who’s covered government institutions from a variety of levels. A Carleton University journalism graduate, she was a multimedia reporter for three local Niagara newspapers. Her work has been published in the Toronto Star. Rachel was the inaugural recipient of the Political Matters internship, placing her at The Globe and Mail’s parliamentary bureau. She spent three years covering the federal government for iPolitics. Rachel is the Alberta correspondent for True North based in Edmonton.

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