Alison Redford's so-called conservative government's decision to implement Bill C-36, The Land Stewardship Act, which effectively gives control of all land in Alberta to the provincial government, is a death blow to property rights in Alberta. Under this law, government bureaucrats will now dictate to land owners what they can and cannot do on their own land.
If this sounds obscene to you, then you’d best hang on tight, because it gets worse. Much worse. But first, a little background.
Bill 36, The Land Stewardship Act, was initially brought forward by former Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach’s government. It caused a lot of outrage among farmers and oil patch workers, and with good reason. The Bill allowed government bureaucrats the ability to rescind water licenses, feed lot approvals, oil patch licenses, and much more, without the ability for the land owner to challenge the decision in court or be paid compensation for the loss of use of their land.
This is the sort of abuse I would expect to see in Soviet Russia, not in the province that most Canadians view as the lone province that still defends Freedom and Liberty in Canada. Of course that perception is not true and hasn’t been for decades, but it still persists despite all proof to the contrary such as that embodied in Bill 36, The Land Stewardship Act.
When Alison Redford took over as leader of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party and with it, the office of Premier of Alberta, the very first thing she did was stop Bill 36 dead in its tracks. That was a good sign that the new but unelected Premier of Alberta was going to respect the rights of Albertans.
That good sign was, however, very short-lived.
While Premier Redford did create a Property Rights Task Force that traveled the province to garner feedback on the proposed bill, she has promptly ignored everything the Task Force told her in the report and will now move Bill 36 forward unchanged.
Redford obviously has a very different definition of “democracy” than I do. Her definition would appear to read as follows:
Democracy according to Alison Redford: the right of the Premier of Alberta to follow the dictates of unelected career bureaucrats and their anti-freedom agenda while utterly ignoring the will of the people and their Rights while trampling their Freedoms and Liberty into dust.
The Property Rights Task Force Report made the feelings of Albertans very clear:
The passion with which Albertans spoke and wrote reflects the incredibly important role that property rights play in people’s lives. As one individual put it, “they are the fundamental underpinnings of our democracy and society.” [p. 3]
A government that does not respect the property rights of individuals is an affront to Freedom and Liberty. Alberta’s current government is nothing if not an affront to Freedom and Liberty.
The Property Rights Task Force was created to listen to Albertans voice their concerns and ideas about how they would like their property rights respected. There is a broad understanding that our growing province creates a demand on the land and the need for responsible, common sense approaches to managing this growth. And while there is a desire to ensure Alberta reaches its potential, there is also a feeling that Albertans’ property rights should not be compromised for the purpose of managing growth or development.
Albertans have told us that they must be actively consulted about management approaches and decisions on land use that affect them. They need to be assured that they have access to courts and representation to negotiate – or argue against – actions that could affect their property rights and, where ground must be given, they expect appropriate compensation. [p 4]
Under Bill 36 none of these protections apply.
The government does not have to rationalize their land use decisions, they do not have to pay compensation for the loss of use of property, and there is no ability to challenge the decision in court.
This is unelected Premier Alison Redford’s idea of “consultation” with Albertans? What Alberta needs is a premier that comprehends what Rights and Freedoms truly mean, something Alison Redford clearly is incapable of.
Property rights are at the core of that way of life. They underpin everything that happens with land and resources. Albertans depend on having and being able to exercise these crucial rights. They rightly and understandably wish to see these rights preserved and respected.
The individuals who participated in this process presented a range of views to the Task Force, but an overriding message came through very clearly. Albertans want certainty when it comes to their property rights – certainty about what those rights are; about the rules for how industry and government must respect those rights; and about what must happen, financially and legally, if those rights are infringed or impacted. [p 41]
The official government response to the legitimate concerns of Albertans, who will have the right to use their property taken away from them without any compensation, is atrocious.
To respond to the recommendations of the Property Rights Task Force report “Engaging with Albertans,” the government will:
take steps to improve engagement with Albertans; including being more consistent, predictable and timely in consultations;
review requirements for industry to reclaim, remediate land and remove unused infrastructure;
review the Expropriation Act as well as the Surface Rights Act, regulations guidelines or principles related to compensation and property rights; and,
create a Property Rights Advocate to share information and help people determine the appropriate resolution mechanism - including the courts.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Except what they say they will do is utterly meaningless.
They’ve already “consulted” with Albertans… and then promptly ignored everything they were told during those consultations.
Their pledge to “review” the Expropriation Act and the Surface Rights Act are meaningless. Now, if they were to pledge to “change” these Acts to “better protect Albertans from overzealous bureaucrats and the whims of political expediency”, then I might be willing to believe Ms. Redford’s government.
Lastly, the Property Rights Advocate they tout as the “solution” to the problem they are creating with Bill 36, the Land Stewardship Act, has absolutely NO power to do anything other than file an annual report.
That hardly meets the definition of “advocate” in any meaningful way, does it?
As Danielle Smith wrote so clearly in the February 15, 2011 edition of the Hanna Herald under the banner “Government takes sledge hammer to property rights”:
Private property, and the rights that protect it, form the bedrock of any free and democratic society. Government authority ends where private property - and the rights of those who own it begins.
Good governments respect property rights and the role they play in limiting the power of the state. Bad governments trample on them to expand that power. This is what we've seen in Alberta.
While I don’t live in Alberta, if I did I know exactly who I would be voting for in the upcoming provincial election.
Read for yourself:
Another excellent resource is Keith Wilson’s February 14, 2011 response to Professor Nigel Bankes regarding The Alberta Land Stewardship Act and its ability to extinguish land titles by Cabinet decree: http://www.landownersagainstbills.com/Wilson%20Response%20to%20Professor%20Bankes%20re%20ALSA%20and%20Land%20Titles.pdf
Lastly, here are a few videos that give an excellent overview of the effect of Bill 36, as well as Premier Redford’s failure to protect the Rights and Freedoms of Albertans by moving forward with Bill 36 unchanged.