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4 UCP leadership candidates rally against 'fairy tale' sovereignty act


Four of the seven UCP leadership hopefuls joined together Thursday to speak out against Danielle Smith's proposed Alberta Sovereignty Act.

Leela Aheer, Brian Jean, Rajan Sawhney and Travis Toews say they don't see eye-to-eye on everything, but they all stand firmly in opposition of the act.

"We don't disagree on reality," Jean said.

"No Alberta law can stop the federal government from controlling federal jurisdiction."

Smith's so-called sovereignty act has been criticized inside and outside the party.

At its core, the proposed act would be a piece of legislation that could allow the province to refuse to obey federal laws and policies it deems not in its best interest.

Smith has been adamant her idea would not only work, but would also be successful.

Her competitors call it "a fairy tale."

"It's sort of like raising your hand and saying 'freedom!'" Jean said.

"What next? What are the laws that are changed? What are you going to do to fix health care, what are you going to do to fix our school system? After the fantasy is over and we've had our bedtime story, then what?"

"The sovereignty act is blatantly unconstitutional and the equivalent of starting a bar brawl in the middle of confederation," Aheer added.

"None of this is based in intelligence. It's based in division and anger and the frustration of people who are very upset right now."


The four candidates in Calgary insist Smith is purposely misleading UCP members.

They say voters were drawn in by previous promises about what the act would mean for equalization and the carbon tax. But months later, those promises are no longer included in Smith's mailouts.

"We have a moral imperative to tell the truth about the potential of this very destructive piece of legislation," Sawhney said.

"We need to stand up to Ottawa and defend and advance Alberta's vital economic interests," Toews added, "but the sovereignty act is not the way to do that."

Both believe the proposal would drive provincial investment away and create tension with the rest of the country.

They also say it could lead to higher taxes as the province creates new bureaucratic positions and could eventually make the cost of living skyrocket.


Smith is the perceived frontrunner in the race.

After current-Premier Jason Kenney bashed the policy proposal earlier this month, she spat back and doubled down on her plans.

A statement Thursday — she was once again unavailable for a CTV News interview — suggests she still believes in the plan.

"Tens of thousands of UCP members have embraced this plan to finally stand up to Ottawa and Justin Trudeau," Smith's statement partially reads.

"I entirely trust the judgment of our UCP membership to select the leader they feel will best defend them against Ottawa’s continued unconstitutional attacks against our province, and I will respect their decision when it is made. I would expect my future caucus colleagues to do the same.”


Despite being a lightning rod for criticism, the act has garnered interest from some potential voters across the province.

"That's because (Smith's) appeal is to a particular group of people who are just angry at a lot of things," University of Lethbridge professor Trevor Harrison said.

"This seems to be a vehicle for expressing that anger."

If Smith wins in October, her act would still need party support to pass through the legislature.

Harrison says that could be a tall task, considering its already-fierce opposition.

All four candidates on hand say they would not support it in its current form.

"We could easily see a fracture over the next number of months going into the next election," Harrison told CTV News.

Both Aheer and Sawhney hinted Thursday a heated debate over the act could drive the party further apart, maybe eventually leading to another leadership review.


Three of the four candidates at Thursday's press conference say they're asking their voters to write Smith in seventh — which is last place — on their ranked leadership ballots.

They stopped short of saying this is an "Anybody But Smith" campaign, but continually insist she may be unable to beat the NDP in a spring general election.

Candidate Rebecca Schulz wasn't at the press conference but says she too does not support the act.

Todd Loewen, who has previously supported parts of the proposal, put out a social media video saying he didn't like the political tactics used during Thursday's gathering. Top Stories

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