The year 2023 was bittersweet for Alberta independence supporters. It contained some unmistakable setbacks, but also some positive developments.The biggest setback for the independence movement was the infighting among members of the two main independence parties.In 2021, the Wildrose Independence Party of Alberta (WIPA) was polling at an impressive 17%. That was likely the highest support an independence party had polled since the early 1980s.Unfortunately, significant internal conflict erupted during the party’s AGM in July 2022. To a large degree WIPA was gutted and it received a paltry 0.05% of the vote in the 2023 provincial election.Similarly, The Independence Party of Alberta (TIP) suffered severe conflict at its April 2023 AGM because the party board had removed the leader, Artur Pawlowski, days earlier. The result left the party severely diminished and it received 0.29% of the vote in the election.In short, internal organizational conflicts devastated the independence movement, just as they did in the early 1980s. The more things change, the more they stay the same.But the silver lining was that there was no vote split on the right in the provincial election. Had one of the independence parties been genuinely competitive, it’s possible the NDP could have benefited in the same way it did in 2015. Another accidental NDP government would have been a deathblow for the province.Anyway, Danielle Smith’s UCP won the election and it has been notably assertive in defending Alberta’s jurisdiction from the federal government.From an Alberta-first perspective, this is progress.Smith has taken the initiative to advance the idea of an Alberta Pension Plan (APP). There may even be a referendum to determine if Albertans would like the province to pull out of the Canada Pension Plan and create a provincial one.An APP would be a necessity in an independent Alberta, so it’s the kind of initiative that moves the dial forward.The premier has also invoked the Alberta Sovereignty Act to fight the federal government’s efforts to shutdown Alberta’s natural gas power-generating plants. She said: “Alberta’s government will not put Albertans and their businesses at risk of freezing in the dark at -30C due to the federal government’s proposed unaffordable, unreliable and unconstitutional Clean Electricity Regulations.”When Justin Trudeau announced home heating oil would be exempt from the carbon tax for three years — that is, until after the next election — to benefit Liberal voters in the Maritime provinces, Smith confronted his double standard, namely, that the federal government “has decided that one part of Canada with one type of home heating is worthy of a carbon tax break, while those living elsewhere using another type of home heating do not.”She also tweeted, “Question for the Liberal Government: Are we not Canadians, too?”Well, we’re not Liberal voters and that’s the bottom line for Trudeau, as federal Rural Economic Development Minister Gudie Hutchings helpfully pointed out.When Steven Guilbeault announced at COP28 the federal government would cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by at least 75% by 2030, Alberta responded that doing so would be “dangerous and unconstitutional.”Similarly, the Liberal government’s subsequent announcement of its plan for capping emissions in the oil and gas sector was met with Smith’s statement calling the scheme an “intentional attack by the federal government on the economy of Alberta and the financial well-being of millions of Albertans and Canadians.”Besides the premier’s strong stands, Alberta also celebrated a victory at the Supreme Court of Canada, where the Impact Assessment Act, a.k.a. the No More Pipelines Law, was ruled to be largely unconstitutional. Although the federal government says it can simply tweak the law to keep it alive, this is still an unexpected win for the province.So, at the moment, a muscular Alberta under Danielle Smith is pushing back against hostile federal government climate change policies. Giving credit where credit is due, she deserves the applause of all patriotic Albertans.Nevertheless, despite her best efforts, full independence must still be on the agenda.The Sovereignty Act is not enough. If it is constitutional, as Danielle Smith says, then it hasn’t gotten anything for Alberta that we didn’t have already. It simply reaffirms Alberta’s existing powers under the constitution, which can be diminished by the Supreme Court, as it did with its carbon tax decision of 2021.But if the Act is unconstitutional, as many critics argue, then using the Sovereignty Act will result in the federal government challenging Alberta in court. The judicial process could take years, but it will end up at the Supreme Court where seven of the nine judges are from Eastern Canada, so Alberta’s chances are not good.Danielle Smith is resisting Ottawa about as well as a premier could within the straitjacket of the Canadian constitution. But ultimately, it will not be enough.Alberta is currently facing a number of federal government attacks on its jurisdiction: the so-called “just transition,” plans to eliminate our natural gas power generation, caps on methane emissions and oil production, the carbon tax, etc.Whether it’s Pierre Trudeau imposing an export tax on Alberta’s oil in 1973 or Justin Trudeau imposing a de facto cap on Alberta oil production in 2023, for about two generations the greatest threat to this province’s prosperity has been the Government of Canada.That’s a problem that can only be solved with an independence referendum.We need our own country now.