Motion aims to protect property rights



Rod Fox
On Nov. 24, I will be joined by Wildrose MLAs as we introduce Motion 501 to the legislature urging the assembly to support entrenching Alberta landowner rights in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  This move would in one stroke ensure any current or future Alberta government respects the rights of Alberta property owners by cementing those rights in the Charter — Canada’s highest law.  This is what both I and Jim Hillyer — the Member of Parliament from
Lethbridge — are fighting for. Hillyer is introducing a similar motion in Ottawa. He will ask Parliament to support the same principle: to amend the Charter to enshrine property rights for Albertans. The result would be that the government could not take actions under any law to diminish the value of property without fairly compensating landowners.  This kind of positive constitutional  change is possible and critical for advancing property rights here in Alberta and across Canada.

Under Section 43 of The Constitution Act, changes can be made to the Charter that apply only to individual provincial legislatures. This change would only affect Alberta.  Over the coming weeks, I will be asking my PC, Liberal and NDP colleagues to join me in unanimously supporting this motion.  It remains unclear whether Premier Jim Prentice plans on moving forward with meaningful property rights legislation this winter. But even if he does, the fact remains: landowners need rock-solid assurance of their rights; they need to know the rules of the game won’t change at a moment’s notice. This motion is the only way to truly achieve that.  The fact is, supporting this motion should not be about partisanship, it should be about doing what is right for Alberta.

As it stands, when the province directly takes private property for public purposes there are fairly clear rights in place under the Expropriation Act.  Where things get murky is in cases when the province places restrictions on land that depreciate its value — also known as “de facto” expropriation.  These restrictions can include things like revoking licences or permits, or freezing development in case there is expropriation one day, or putting caveats on land titles, or granting access to companies to pump CO2 under your land.  Instead of always allowing independent determinations of fair compensation, recent legislation has given broad discretion to the government to decide the fate of your land and your business, and explicitly ruled out appeals of those decisions or the compensation offered to the court.  Tensions between individual property owners and government infrastructure or planning are inevitable. The key is whether the businesses and property people have worked so hard for are respected. This is why property rights have been recognized since as far back as 1215 with the Magna Carta as a key to economic and political freedom.  We see this as an exciting opportunity
for Alberta to lead the way once again in Canada, and entrench a fundamental right that our federal constitution has been missing for too long.  With your help, we can make truly positive changes to public policy in Alberta. If you support entrenching property rights for Alberta in Canada’s constitution, please call or write your local MLA and urge them to support Motion 501.