Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Danielle Smith shake hands after Shandro was sworn into cabinet as minister of justice, in Edmonton, on Oct. 24, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Alberta sovereignty act, protection for the unvaccinated part of Shandro’s mandate

Alberta’s justice minister has received a long to-do list from Premier Danielle Smith in a mandate letter.

The letter says Tyler Shandro is to develop and enact the proposed sovereignty act to challenge “unconstitutional federal encroachments on areas of provincial jurisdiction.”

“I expect our cabinet to remain united and determined in the face of a federal government that no longer treats its partners in Confederation as equals,” Smith writes in the letter dated Wednesday.

“We must proactively protect Albertans from continued federal government overreach, including hostile economic policies that landlock our provincial resources, that chase billions in investment and thousands of jobs from our province, and that are detrimental to the short-term and long-term prosperity of Albertans.”

In an interview with The Canadian Press on Thursday, Shandro said the sovereignty act is the priority and will be ready by next month.

“That’s going to be Bill 1. It’s going to be sponsored by the premier so definitely from that perspective,” he said Thursday.

“One of the directions I’ve received from the premier is for this to be constitutionally compliant and the way of confronting the federal government’s repeated intrusions and stepping into provincial jurisdiction.”

The letter says Shandro is also to take legislative or regulatory steps to prohibit discrimination on the basis of COVID-19 vaccination.

“A lot of Albertans and many of my caucus mates have heard anecdotes from people who continue to be discriminated against,” Shandro said.

“We are in the endemic stage and so it says in the letter for us to take a look at whether there are any steps that need to be taken to address those concerns of discrimination.”

Smith has previously said the unvaccinated are the “most discriminated group” she has seen in her lifetime.

In addition, Smith asks Shandro to make a final decision on establishing a provincial police service.

Shandro said there is no date for when a decision will be made, but added that the province is consulting with municipalities in a working group to address any concerns that still exist.

“It’s not in the approval process at this time. I think because of that working group, we are closer than we ever have been before in this province,” Shandro said.

Smith spoke to the fall convention of the Rural Municipalities Association in Edmonton on Thursday. She outlined government priorities but did not mention the provincial police plan. She didn’t take questions from reporters.

Paul McLauchlin, the president of the association, said his members have been clear they want to work with the RCMP.

“My members are just saying, ‘You know what? Should we spend energy creating a new police force or should we spend energy on the root cause of crime?’ And my members are saying today, wholeheartedly, ‘let’s invest in the root cause of crime,’” McLauchlin said.

“I’ve talked to pollsters and they’re (saying) this is not a good idea from a strategic political standpoint. It is not resonating from a polling standpoint (and) it’s not resonating from the folks I represent.”

In the letter, Smith says she also wants legislature security officers to be designated as peace officers and be allowed to carry firearms.

Shandro said this is a matter that has been studied since 2014. He said because the legislature officers answer to the Speaker, firearms have been prohibited. A simple amendment to the Legislative Assembly Act, however, is possible and would make the legislature a safer place, Shandro added.

“This is a long time coming,” he said. “It has been studied to death and we’re pleased to be able to look at whether there could be a legislative amendment to help this come forward.”

Smith has also ordered Shandro to ensure Alberta fully participates in the Public Order Emergency Commission to challenge Ottawa’s use of the Emergencies Act and to help develop policy recommendations to prevent the future use of the legislation from violating provincial jurisdiction.

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