A day after introducing the Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act the Alberta government is clarifying what it means.
Cabinet is only authorized to amend existing legislation as specifically outlined in a resolution brought to the legislature.
That resolution would first have to be introduced in the legislature, debated, voted on and passed by the assembly.
In a release, the government explains: "In no way does the Sovereignty within a United Canada Act permit cabinet to unilaterally amend legislation without those amendments being first authorized by the legislative assembly. If there is any dispute as to whether or not cabinet amended legislation outside of the specific recommendations contained in the resolution, including any amendments by the legislative assembly to the resolution, such actions would still be subject to both judicial review as well as review by the legislative assembly itself."
They say the rationale is simply to allow the legislative assembly to act swiftly and efficiently to protect Albertans from federal initiatives that which would harm the interests of Alberta.
The release included a technical explanation from the Ministry of Justice:
- The [cabinet] authorities under Section 4 only become applicable once the conditions in Section 3 have been met [passage of a resolution by the legislative assembly].
- Under Section 3, on the motion of a minister, a resolution will be debated in the legislature and, if passed, will make recommendations to cabinet on the actions that should be taken in response to the unconstitutional actions of the federal government or to address the harm inflicted on Albertans. If that happens, then the authorities under Section 4 can be used, but only to the extent they are necessary or advisable to carry out the measures recommended in the motion.
- It is important to note that the resolution will specify the recommended actions. It is the recommendations and the content of the resolution as passed that will determine the extent to which cabinet will be able to exercise its authorities under Section 4 to amend legislation or pass other orders in council. While Section 4 provides the necessary authority for cabinet to amend legislation once a resolution is passed, that authority can only be exercised if the scope of the recommendations of the resolution makes such actions necessary or advisable. The authority is further limited as its exercise has to relate to addressing the harm or unconstitutionality at the heart of the resolution in question.