Danielle Smith has been elected leader of Alberta's ruling United Conservative Party and will become the 19th premier of the oil-rich western Canadian province.
Smith, age 51, campaigned on an “Alberta First” slogan and a promise to introduce the “Alberta Sovereignty Act,” which would enable the province to ignore federal laws that it does not like and could reignite a movement to separate the province from the rest of Canada.
Legal experts say courts are likely to block any sovereignty legislation, while economists warn that the threat of cession from Canada could deter future investments in Alberta.
Smith has pledged to immediately table the Alberta Sovereignty Act, allowing the province to refuse to enforce federal laws or policies that it feels violate Alberta’s jurisdiction and rights.
The sovereignty legislation could apply to federal regulations related to new energy projects, climate change legislation, vaccination policies, and gun control laws in the province.
Smith, who is most popular in rural areas of Alberta, has said that the act will enable Alberta to assert its constitutional rights and protect against the “overreach of Ottawa.”
But legal experts say the proposed legislation in Alberta would be viewed as unconstitutional under existing Canadians laws and likely be struck down in the courts.
Outgoing Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has criticized the Alberta Sovereignty Act as a “full-frontal attack on the rule of law” that risked turning Alberta into a “banana republic.”
Smith, a former talk radio host, was leader of Alberta’s right-wing Wildrose Party from 2009 to 2014. She publicly opposed public health restrictions including lockdowns and vaccine mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic.