We HAVE property rights ????

Property rights advocate office opens today

Wednesday, 06 February 2013 02:01 Mabell, Dave
Dave Mabell
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Premier Alison Redford will be in Lethbridge this morning for the official opening of the province’s first property rights advocacy office.
Lethbridge lawyer Lee Cutforth was appointed late last year to head the new agency, now operating in a street-front location in the city’s Provincial Building.
The premier will be joined by Jonathan Denis, the province’s solicitor general and minister of justice.
After naming Cutforth to a three-year term in December, the justice minister pointed out selecting an official advocate and opening a property rights office were among recommendations made by a task force that toured the province last year.
“Property rights are fundamental to our province, and the advocate will ensure individuals, municipalities, government and industry are aware of the principles enshrined in our legislation,” he said.
Southern Alberta property owners’ concerns about land use and ownership were frequently raised during last spring’s provincial election. They’re cited as one reason the governing Conservatives lost many southern seats to opposition Wildrose candidates.
Denis’ officials describe the new advocate’s job as working with Albertans “to provide them with impartial and independent information to deal with issues that could affect their property rights, and help them find the appropriate resolution mechanisms when disputes arise.”
Cutforth was selected after a nation-wide competition, the minister said. Denis cited community service as well as Cutforth’s southern Alberta farming roots as assets he’ll bring to the role.
Born in Lethbridge and raised on the family farm near Barons, he earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Lethbridge and his law degree at the University of Saskatchewan. He’s since practised law in Saskatoon and then Lethbridge, working on criminal cases as well as municipal, family and real estate law.
Cutforth serves on the Lethbridge Regional Police Commission and previously chaired the city’s subdivision and development appeal board. He also ran for city council in 2010.
His landowners’ advocacy position is an Alberta-first, Cutforth says.
“This is the first one I’m aware of,” so there are no models to follow. Part of his job has been working with justice department officials to get things started.
“It’s a complaint-based service,” he says. “We don’t have a mandate to go out and make our own case.”
With most of the province’s rural land used for agriculture, Cutforth says he expects to hear about conflicts between farmers and energy producers.
“There’s a lot of drilling,” across southern Alberta and much of the province.
With a head office in Lethbridge and a satellite location in Edmonton, the new advocate expects to spend many hours on the highways. While his staff will keep regular office hours, Cutforth expects he’ll often be meeting landowners across the province at times that meet their needs.
Just how much time he’s in Lethbridge will depend on how many calls he receives from other areas.