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‘Unnerving’: Sovereignty Act creates uncertainty for Alberta cities, says Mayor Gondek

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said a “completely undefined” Sovereignty Act put forward by the province, could put the city into a “tailspin” given the uncertainty around it.

On Tuesday, Premier Danielle Smith put forth the Alberta Sovereignty within a United Canada Act. Immediately, questions were raised about the ability of the UCP cabinet to unilaterally amend legislation without going through the legislature.

Less than 24 hours later, the province issued a clarification.

“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,” read a provincial release.

Mayor Gondek, speaking to media at a shop local event Wednesday, said the document’s ambiguity has her concerned.

“If you introduce something and it has to be explained the next day, and you have to hold press conferences that say, ‘yeah, kind of, but not really,’ then you don’t know what it is that you’re looking for,” the mayor said.

“If you don’t know what you’re looking for, and you are the so called parent organization to municipalities across this province, that is unnerving.”

The Sovereignty Act passed first reading in the Alberta Legislature Tuesday afternoon.

The mayor said this was done without consultation with cities. She noted that Alberta First Nations have said they, too, weren’t consulted.  The mayor said she, like many Calgarians, don’t know what the Act could mean for them.

“I’d like to be treated like a partner organization as an order of government that serves the same constituents. Right now that hasn’t happened,” Mayor Gondek said.

“It is really driving forward this idea that while they are seeking some form of justice for what they feel is unconstitutional, our rights are being stripped away. Municipalities in Alberta have lost their agency, their autonomy to serve their citizenry, if this thing goes as far as we think it might.”

Calgary Chamber reiterates their concern

The Calgary Chamber of Commerce posted a statement on Tuesday’s Throne Speech to Twitter.

They said the speech did cover several focus areas that are important to businesses.

“However, the Chamber remains concerned that the proposed Alberta Sovereignty within a United Canada Act will impede new investment in the province, reduce business certainty and stability and create challenges for business to attract and retain talent,” read the statement from Chamber President and CEO, Deborah Yedlin.

“We urge the government to consult with the business community as it develops new policy in the upcoming legislative session.”

Mayor Gondek echoed Yedlin’s economic concerns. She said it’s creating unsteadiness.

“Our economy is at a place where we’re ready to rebound but the more disruption you throw at us, the worse it makes it for people who wish to invest in our city.

“As a city that has been incredibly intentional in investing in our downtown revitalization, investing in small businesses and helping Calgarians get back to a place that’s out of the recession, something like this, the Sovereignty Act, which is completely undefined right now, really puts us into a tailspin.”

  • With files from Aryn Toombs