Marlaina Danielle Smith ECA is a Canadian politician and journalist who has been serving as the 19th premier of Alberta since October 11, 2022, and leader of the United Conservative Party since October 6, 2022. Smith entered provincial politics in 2009, becoming the leader of the Wildrose Party.
  • Danielle Smith won the leadership of the United Conservative Party (making her Premier of Alberta) on a platform that included challenging Canada's constitution with a provincial "Sovereignty Act."
  • While there has already been a political climb-down since she became premier last week, her reckless policy lurches and hostility to renewable energy spell trouble for the province's fast-growing cleantech sector.

Having won the leadership of the United Conservative Party (UCP), Danielle Smith has succeeded Jason Kenney as Premier of Alberta.

With this change, the province is likely to take yet another populist-right turn, as Smith’s signature policy proposition – the Alberta Sovereignty Act – is a brazen attempt at undermining the Canadian constitution. 

The Sovereignty Act, as laid out by Smith and her team, would authorize Alberta to refuse the enforcement of federal laws (like pollution restrictions) and ignore federal regulators when they’re seen as acting contrary to the interests of Alberta or are in supposed violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 

In a statement during her leadership campaign, Smith said of the policy, “No longer will Alberta ask permission from Ottawa to be prosperous and free. We will not have our voices silenced or censored. We will not have our resources landlocked or energy phased out of existence by virtue-signalling prime ministers.” 

According to Smith’s former campaign website, Alberta would proceed with the Sovereignty Act bar nothing – including the Canadian courts ruling it unconstitutional. Smith’s spokesperson recently walked this claim back, saying that Alberta would comply with Canada’s Supreme Court.

While Smith has defended her Sovereignty Act as instrumental to restoring prosperity to Alberta, the reality is that it’s little more than a “half-baked” (in the words of outgoing Premier Jason Kenney) attempt at exploiting the populist anger surrounding Trudeau’s Federal Liberals. 

And for anyone unsure of how the economics of constitutional meddling play out, simply harken back to the Parti Québécois’ tumultuous reign in the 1970s, which led to a devastating private investment and business exodus – along with thousands of mostly anglophone workers.

As Alberta – Canada’s energy heartland – already faces a multitude of economic challenges, including difficulty attracting skilled workers, mounting pressure to speed up economic diversification, and high inflation rates, the last thing its Premier should be doing is creating instability among markets by way of reckless political posturing. 

Thanks in part to the United States’ passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, Canada is on the cusp of a green energy and cleantech revolution – with Alberta set to lead it.

The economic potential of this opportunity is staggering, yet Smith’s precipitous comments and policies – as well as her anti-solar and wind ideology – jeopardize Alberta’s ability to take full advantage of the situation.

Smith may only have a year until she has to face a general election, which will be highly unpredictable, but that’s more than enough time to damage Alberta’s international standing, scare off green investors, and interfere in the province’s economic evolution.

Rightfully so, Albera’s cleantech sector is bracing itself for what’s to come next – whatever that may be. 

Brett Porter
Brett is a cleantech and climate communicator specializing in knowledge translation, public relations, and content and messaging strategy. He has a degree in Professional Communication from Toronto Metropolitan University with a minor in Canadian Government and Politics. On the side, he advises climate-friendly politicians. You can find brett at brettporter[dot]ca.

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