Alberta Premier Danielle Smith invoked the Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act on Monday to defend the province from what she describes as the federal government’s disastrous program to mandate a net-zero electricity grid by 2035.
This resolution directly challenges the federal government’s proposed clean electricity regulations.
“We are left with no choice but to create a shield to protect Albertans from Ottawa’s dangerous and unconstitutional electricity regulations,” said Smith.
Smith added that the Alberta government refuses to put the stability of the province’s electricity grid at risk. The resolution introduced under the act is the first of its kind since the law was introduced by Smith and it aims to safeguard Alberta’s energy future.
Citing the Constitution Act, the resolution argues that the Alberta Legislature has exclusive legislative jurisdiction over the development, conservation, and management of sites and facilities within the province for the generation and production of electrical energy.
The Alberta government wanted to collaborate with the federal government to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, a goal that Smith and electrical companies felt was achievable. However, that collaboration was upended when the federal government decided it would enforce a much shorter deadline under threat of penalties should provinces disobey.
“[The federal government] remains committed to an absurdly unrealistic and unattainable goal of a net-zero power grid by 2035,” reads the Alberta government’s news release.
Smith said that moving forward with this plan would lead to instability. The pathway the federal government has proposed will lead to Alberta not being able to grow as a province or provincial brownouts and blackouts, explained Smith.
In a press conference, Premier Smith and Minister of Affordability and Utilities Nathan Neudorf emphasized that the resolution is being implemented as a last resort. Neudorf said that Alberta should not have had to take this step.
“Unfortunately, Ottawa has yet to truly demonstrate that they are willing to work with us and listen to our realities,” said Neudorf.
The resolution also proposes exploring the establishment of a provincial Crown corporation to maintain grid reliability. This body would not recognize the CERs and could potentially assume responsibility for electricity generation in Alberta should federal policies deter private entities.
The Crown corporation would operate as a generator of last resort. Smith was clear that she intended to maintain as much of the private operation of the market as possible. If the CERs threaten the ability of private generators to continue producing electricity at an existing power plant after 2035, the Crown corporation could purchase that power plant to keep the lights on in the province.
“These measures are not something that we want to do. They are planning to counteract the absurd, illogical, unscientific and unconstitutional interference in Alberta’s electrical grid by a federal government that simply doesn’t care what happens to our province, so long as they have a good virtue signalling story to tell their leftist friends,” said Neudorf.
Alberta’s power grid nearly failed seven times last winter. The province had a level three alert three times over the summer. Smith said these used to be very rare, occurring only once every couple of years. The province has recently had eight within a 12 to 18-month period.
According to Smith, the near-failures are signs that the grid is under stress, and that the province needs to work to bring more baseload power on. She added that based on Alberta’s projections, the province expects to double the need for electricity between now and 2050.
Premier Smith said that Alberta wants private sector operators to build the province more baseload power. Her government also wants the private sector to come forward with natural gas and nuclear power generation plans. But if they do not, the Alberta government will need to step in.
Smith explained that the reaction of Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault has been extraordinarily disappointing.
“He is acting like the Supreme Court never rendered a decision on the Impact Assessment Act, saying that it is essentially unconstitutional, especially as it related to projects in Alberta,” said Smith.
“I can’t wait for years to fight the federal government back in areas that I know the court has said are unconstitutional. They just have to start following the law.”
Smith said that if the federal government proceeds with their plan, the dispute over the regulations will end up going to court.
“We hope that the federal government backs down,” said Smith. “Why don’t we just work together on a 2050 target? It’s been my consistent position from the very moment that I spoke with Justin Trudeau and the ministers that are at the table with us. I’m hoping that they now understand that we’re serious, that we are going to preserve the integrity of our power grid in whatever way we need to.”