Sask. provincial land act updated amid criticism

Legislation to update Saskatchewan’s decades-old Provincial Lands Act will be introduced this month.

Agriculture minister Lyle Stewart said June 9 that stakeholder consultation was completed June 3 and the bill will come forward before the legislative sitting ends June 30.

The NDP raised concerns in the legislature that stakeholders hadn’t had enough time for input, but Stewart said they did. The province intended to go ahead with updated legislation in its last term and consulted then. However, the government agenda didn’t allow enough time for the bill to come forward.

“We refreshed those 2013 consultations, and any stakeholders that were interested had an opportunity to resubmit,” Stewart said in an interview.

“We’re satisfied that every stakeholder that was interested in having more input into the consultation process took that opportunity.”

He said the act was first drafted in 1930 and most recently updated in 1978. The language is not gender appropriate, he said, and contains outdated thinking.

“It contains provisions such as allowing the minister to jail people for offences under the act, and I don’t think that’s appropriate these days, either,” Stewart said.

The act governs crown cultivated and grazing land, as well as forest.

Stewart said the “archaic” act doesn’t allow government to move quickly when there are lease violations. The only remedy under the existing act is to go to court.

For example, the new bill would allow officials to stop the work if someone dug an illegal drainage ditch on crown land.

He also said the existing act treats land differently depending how the government obtained it. Old land bank acreage is treated differently than the provincial pasture system.

“These anomalies will be taken out of the new act, and land will be treated more similarly across the board, and people will be less confused about different rules around different types of land,” he said.

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