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Alberta Draws Academia Into Its Fight With Justin Trudeau

The premier of Alberta, Danielle Smith, in Edmonton on Monday.Credit…Artur Widak/NurPhoto, via Getty Images

Federal funding promises can shape how much, or how fast, provinces advance their own agenda items, and Alberta wants Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to know that his to-do list will have to wait.

Premier Danielle Smith announced that the province would take steps, through a bill introduced this month, to reinforce the work that she contends is most important to Albertans and to her United Conservative Party government. This latest attempt to square off with the federal government in Ottawa continues to deepen her party’s view that Mr. Trudeau, a Liberal, has thrust his ideological agenda onto Albertans.

“Albertans don’t want federal funding to show the world how virtuous we are, or to polish Canada’s halo internationally,” Ms. Smith said at a news conference on April 10. “After all, a lot of that money came from hardworking Alberta taxpayers in the first place, but this federal government has not let reality get in the way of a good headline, and never missed an opportunity to grab more control from the provinces.”

[Read Ian Austen’s article from 2022: Conservatives in Western Canada Pass Law Rejecting Federal Sovereignty]

The bill, called the Provincial Priorities Act, would essentially make the Albertan government an arbiter on federal funding deals, with the power to invalidate agreements that its municipalities and health agencies, for example, make with Ottawa. Consultations on the bill are planned for this summer, and it is expected to take effect in early 2025, the government has said.

Postsecondary institutions are also covered by the proposed legislation, raising alarm at university administrations that the government might impede academic freedoms.

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