Rural Albertans’ concerns about property rights were among the key reasons the Wildrose Party won most rural constituencies in the last provincial election.
The party now wants property rights enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
On Nov. 24, Wildrose MLA Rod Fox plans to introduce Bill 501 in the provincial legislature in efforts to accomplish that goal.
The bill supports an amendment to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that would entrench property rights for Alberta.
“Recent provincial legislation has eroded the rights of landowners in our province by giving broad discretionary powers to the government on deciding the fate of private land and compensation practices in expropriation cases,” Fox said in a Nov. 14 teleconference.
The amendment was proposed by Lethbridge MP Jim Hillyer in Motion 520, which he introduced in the House of Commons June 11.
Property rights became a hot button issue several years ago, particularly for rural Albertans, when the Progressive Conservative government passed five bills affecting landowner rights.
Among the most controversial was Bill 36, the Land Stewardship Act, which allowed government to rescind or cancel land titles without guaranteed compensation or legal recourse.
The bill has since been amended, but Wildrose leader Danielle Smith said the changes may not be sufficient to protect landowners’ rights.
Other property-related bills that raised ire included Bill 19, the Land Assembly Project Area Act; Bill 24, the Carbon Capture and Storage Statutes Amendment Act; Bill 50, the Electric Statutes Amendment Act; and Bill 2, the Responsible Energy Development Act.
“Some of them have been amended. Some of them remain just as bad as they were when they were implemented,” said Smith.
The provincial motion, if passed, and the federal amendment, if passed, would prevent laws from being enacted if they threatened property rights in the province.
Rather than opening the constitution for amendment, Wildrose and Hillyer plan to use Section 43 of the federal Constitution Act, which allows changes if the amendment applies to one or more provinces, but not all of them, and the legislatures of those provinces support it.
Such an amendment must also be passed in the House of Commons and Senate.
“Most people agree today that there is no appetite for debate on general constitutional reform and not any likelihood that a general amendment … would be successful,” said Hillyer in explaining the Section 43 routing of the plan.
“This motion, this amendment, is not just to go after a couple of bills that have taken away property rights.… This is a bigger picture. It makes sure that these kinds of bills cannot be passed in the future, either.”
Smith said protection of property rights was one of the reasons she entered politics.
“Here in Alberta, as we know, property rights have been an issue of some controversy in recent years. Alberta landowners have been subjected to some of the most regressive property legislation that we’ve every seen conceived.”