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'Saskatchewan First Act' aims to assert constitutional jurisdiction: province

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The Saskatchewan First Act, a bill asserting provincial jurisdiction over natural resources in the province, was introduced into the legislative assembly on Tuesday.

“The economic success that Saskatchewan has achieved has been despite federal policies that have done real economic harm and risk doing much more,” Minister of Justice and Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre said while speaking to reporters.

“This bill will create the framework to define, address and quantify economic harm, because that harm is real and is being perpetrated on just one region.”

If passed, the bill will amend Saskatchewan’s constitution, assert exclusive constitutional jurisdiction, numerate core provincial powers and create an independent economic tribunal.

Minister Eyre spoke on the act and explained that a primary function of the amendment would be to put a dollar figure on the effects that federal climate policies are set to have on the province.

“Assessing economic harm, putting a dollar figure on it, will help identify evidence for potential future cases,” she said.

“Quantifying the impact of infringement into that exclusive jurisdiction, which is what’s happening with a lot of these regulations and legislation, will potentially help establish a legal basis for challenging.”

The Government of Saskatchewan’s white paper, titled “Drawing the Line: Defending Saskatchewan’s Economic Autonomy,” outlined a $111 billion cost to Saskatchewan’s economy by 2035 due to federal environmental regulation.

Eyre also noted that Saskatchewan producers are set to pay $28 million annually in carbon tax for grain drying alone by 2030.

The federal clean fuel standard will have an impact of $700 million a year in both gas and diesel consumption, according to the province.

“We feel that it is important to define these policies through the prism of economic harm. It’s about protecting our economy and our way of life while we work to solutions,” Eyre said.

“All of our mandates and emissions in terms of provincially cutting emissions, that’s all still on the books of course. The point is though, that where there is direct infringement on our exclusive jurisdiction, we do feel that it’s important to formally now draw the line.”

NDP MLA Nicole Sarauer, who briefly read the act after it was introduced on Tuesday, said it is too soon to tell if the official opposition will support the amendment.

“We don’t have an answer at this time. We’re going to do the hard work of consulting and reaching out to folks and hearing what their opinion is,” Sarauer said.

CTV News reached out to the federal government for comment but did not hear back by deadline.

Eyre said the federal government could challenge the legislation in court, but she believes the amendment is both constitutionally and legally sound.

According to Jim Farney, director and associate professor of the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, two amending formulas are at play in the four-part document. One of the formulas requires federal approval to make amendments, he said.

“It plays into a debate about how to amend the Canadian constitution,” Farney said.

“It’s a bit unclear to me whether they’re able to unilaterally amend Saskatchewan’s constitution in the way they’re claiming they can.”

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