The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms will be appearing before Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Ann Kirker this morning for two preliminary applications on the UCP government’s Bill 10.
Bill 10 is the controversial legislation Premier Jason Kenney’s UCP rammed through the legislature in 48 hours in the spring of 2020, which transferred broad law-making power to his Minister of Health Tyler Shandro. Justice Centre President John Carpay has called Bill 10 a “power grab under cover of the pandemic”, the “betrayal of the electorate and of the rule of law”, and “an affront to democracy and constitutionalism”. The Justice Centre filed a constitutional challenge to Bill 10 at the end of April 2020. Since the filing of the lawsuit, the case has been delayed due to delay tactics and procedural wrangling by the government, and other systemic delays due to court closures and Covid.
Prior to Bill 10, the Public Health Act already gave extraordinary powers to Cabinet, the Minister of Health, and the Chief Medical Officer in the event of a public health emergency. These existing powers included taking citizen’s real or personal property without consent, authorizing entry into a person’s residence without a warrant, requiring mass immunization of the public, and requiring mass public testing. Under these existing provisions, a minister could suspend – for up to 60 days – the operation of any existing law.
Adding to these existing powers, for the last 10 months during Covid, Bill 10 allows a single Minister to unilaterally make new laws and create new offences for the people of Alberta, without consultation with the elected members of the Legislative Assembly. Bill 10 also raises maximum individual penalties for violating the Public Health Act to the eye-watering sum of $500,000. The Public Health Act has extended the power of Ministers to make new law for a period of up to 270 days, or even longer.
On Monday, the Government of Alberta’s motion to strike the lawsuit will be heard. The UCP Government claims there is nothing legally wrong with transferring law-making power to the Minister of Health and allowing him to unilaterally amend any existing law in the province of Alberta. However, Alberta can point to no historical precedent for allowing one individual to make and amend primary legislation without legislative involvement.
The Justice Centre has applied for public interest standing to challenge Bill 10, and that Application will also be heard Monday.
“Bill 10 was an act of political opportunism,” states John Carpay. “Before the public, or the Legislature for that matter, could clearly understand what was occurring, the UCP transferred enormous power to their Health Minister to unilaterally make and amend laws without debate or oversight from the legislative assembly. This lawsuit is about accountability before the courts and a check on the abuse of legislative power.”