Airdrie Cochrane NDP candidate Shaun Fluker believes the proposed Sovereignty Act that is at the heart of the UCP leadership campaign of Danielle Smith is a threat to the building blocks of democracy.
"It's a real threat, more or less, I think what are the basic building blocks of democratic governance in Alberta, and that is the rule of law, separation of powers, and workable federalism."
While he believes it would be challenged, he finds it even more disturbing that a political party would consider enacting legislation that they know is unconstitutional. The legal process that would follow would be lengthy and expensive for taxpayers.
"The idea of a Sovereignty Act is really trying to usurp what is the function of Canadian courts, which is to rule on the validity of legislation. I can say an Alberta NDP government just wouldn't go down this path at all. There are far more pressing issues facing Albertans that they want their government to focus on, and this is most certainly not even close to being on the list."
"I think the bigger question for me is whether it's appropriate for a government to enact legislation that it knows is unconstitutional, and that's the part to me that I think is most problematic because that really represents an affront to some of these basic principles."
Fluker is an associate professor of law at the University of Calgary and co-wrote a log blog on the Sovereignty Act on June 22 with Martin Olszynski and Jonette Watson Hamilton.
"Legal academics have dismissed the idea as one that would clearly offend Canada’s constitutional order, but to date, mainstream media commentary has failed to acknowledge the fundamentally unlawful and undemocratic nature of this proposal," it states in the opening paragraph.
Under its final subtitle of sovereignty at what cost, it says disagreements over the federal-provincial division of powers are as old as the constitution and have led some to seek constitutional amendments, and others to seek separation.
"But the Alberta Sovereignty Act is altogether different: it promises essentially the same result through an attempted legal sleight of hand," it states. "In our view, however, the clearest and most immediate effects of such ideas is not sovereignty, nor changes to the confederation bargain, but rather a damaging blow to the rule of law and the basic building blocks of democratic governance."
If elected, Smith said the Sovereignty Act would be the first piece of legislation passed in the fall session. Its aim would be to allow Alberta to refuse to enforce any federal act or court ruling the Legislative Assembly deems intrusive upon provincial authority or unfairly prejudice any interests of Alberta.
The act is a product of the Free Alberta Strategy group, of which Rob Anderson is the co-founder. Anderson is Smith's campaign manager.