Alberta stands against “unconstitutional” regulations pushing Trudeau’s net zero agenda

Robert Tuttle, Bloomberg November 27, 2023

(Bloomberg) – Alberta Premier Danielle Smith invoked a measure to defy federal regulations that aim for a net zero electrical grid by 2035, setting up a confrontation between the Canadian province and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith

The resolution proposed under the Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act orders provincial government agencies to not enforce or aid in enforcing Canada’s clean electricity regulations, arguing that power generation is the jurisdiction of the provinces under the constitution, not the federal government’s.

The move is likely to set up a major court battle and standoff between Trudeau and Smith, a conservative premier who has vowed to thwart federal regulations that would undermine the province’s energy sector.

Smith’s government said in a statement that Alberta, which relies on natural gas for the bulk of its power generation, is able to achieve a net-zero power grid by 2050 but the 2035 target would be “unaffordable, unreliable and unconstitutional” and puts people at risk of “freezing in the dark” when temperatures drop as low as minus-23F.

The federal rules are flexible enough to be “realistic and accommodate Alberta’s needs,” Steven Guilbeault, Trudeau’s environment minister, said in a statement. “We have been collaborating in good faith on clean electricity investments and regulations as part of our Canada-Alberta working group, which we created at the request of Alberta with the express intent to work through these issues collaboratively. The government of Alberta has never brought up a constitutional veto at the negotiating table.”

Smith has railed against the federal clean power rules for months, even launching a multimillion-dollar ad campaign against the measures. But Wednesday’s move marks the first time she has invoked her signature sovereignty law, which her government argues allows her province to override federal laws or regulations, but which has yet to be tested in court.

The step comes a month after the Supreme Court of Canada largely struck down a separate federal law on the review major resource and infrastructure projects, legislation that was opposed by Canada’s oil industry.

The province doesn’t have time to wait years for the courts to rule on the constitutionality of the clean electricity regulations and must act now, Smith said at a news conference on Monday. 

The federal clean electricity regulations are discouraging private investors from submitting applications for needed natural gas power plants in Alberta, Smith’s government said in its release. While the resolution to defy the feds wouldn’t apply to private individuals or corporations, the legislation instructs the province to study the feasibility of setting up a provincially owned corporation that could bring on and maintain “more reliable and affordable electricity” at a later date, regardless of federal net-zero government’s rules.

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