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Property Rights

29th
March

Eliminating squatters’ rights, Bill 204

Property Rights, Rick's Blog

Your rights to own property are not protected in the way most Albertans believe they should be. In recent years, we’ve seen flawed legislation come into effect that does not protect Albertans’ rights to own property and that gives government sweeping powers to negatively affect landowners who get in the way of its centralized land-use plans.

In Alberta, a lesser known negative still exists known as adverse possession, or squatters’ rights. In Alberta property law, squatters’ rights allow individuals with no legal or moral right the ability to claim possession of another individual’s property. This can be achieved simply by an individual who does not have title or ownership occupying or using a portion of land for a legally specified number of years. They can then claim legal use to that portion of property.

Currently, only Alberta and Nova Scotia have a law like this on the books. In 2014, the Alberta Property Rights Advocate recommended scrapping this law and just last February, a Wildrose motion on abolishing squatters’ rights received all-party support from a Legislature committee. There is a strong will to get this done for Alberta landowners.

Recently, Wildrose Livingstone–Macleod MLA Pat Stier introduced the Protection of Property Rights Statutes Amendment Act, 2017, an enhanced Bill to protect property rights that would remove squatters’ rights from Alberta law.

“It’s high time we caught up to the rest of the country and abolished squatters’ rights in this province,” Stier said. “This is the big issue that so many hardworking landowners have been waiting patiently to see fixed. It’s time for the NDP to put its money where its mouth is and get this done for Albertan landowners.”

Bill 204 would accomplish other good things for landowners like amending Bill 36, the Alberta Land Stewardship Act (ALSA), which has been categorized by legal experts as “draconian.” The ministerial powers that exist within ALSA are so sweeping and all-powerful they’ve been dubbed the “Henry VIII clauses.”

Under section 19.1 of ALSA, landowners impacted by regional planning saw their rights to seek legal remedy through the courts eliminated completely. If Bill 204 passes, this will no longer be the case.

Bill 204 will also protect the rights of statutory consents (such as forestry permits, intensive livestock operation licenses, oil and gas leases, and grazing leases) to recover financial or property losses through the courts should they be negatively impacted by regional planning decisions. The Bill also proposes amending the Responsible Energy Development Act to incorporate the rights from section 26 of the Energy Resources Conservation Act so that owners of private land will be properly notified of access requests, learn and challenge the facts supporting an energy resource application and be fully involved with the hearing.

The NDP used to support property rights and oppose Bill 36, but since they’ve been in power, we’ve been slow to see any effort to fix these issues in Alberta property law.

As the Wildrose Shadow Minister for Property and Surface Rights, I’m proud to support Bill 204, and I urge the NDP government to do right by landowners and support the Bill too.

Wildrose will continue to fight for property rights to ensure the future protection of Albertans’ ability to create, maintain and accumulate their own earned wealth.

You can read Bill 204 here:

 http://www.assembly.ab.ca/ISYS/LADDAR_files/docs/bills/bill/legislature_29/session_3/20170302_bill-204.pdf

 

 

 

 

22nd
February

PROPERTY & FREEDOM

Property Rights, Rick's Blog

Part six in a six-part series on property rights

Being that I am the property rights critic in the legislature, the Grassroots Alberta Landowners Association enabled me to preview a copy of their soon-to-be-released publication Property & Freedom.

A key message in the publication is that poverty is not a mystery. Poverty has little to do with location, geography, or even the availability of natural resources. At the end of the 20th century, major wealth creating nations on the Pacific Rim with dynamic economies but without significant natural resources included (and still include) Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan.

The reason so many countries are poor, and have been poor for a long time, is that their governments are corrupt and the people have no property rights. When property rights are secure and the rule of law enforced, new wealth emerges. People find ways to be innovative, to create, to invent, to add value and worth to things that can then be sold. Property rights ensure that ordinary people have a personal stake in what’s occurring.

One extensive section of the publication is by Alberta businessman and rancher, Marshall Copithorne, based on a speech he delivered at the Western Stock Growers Association. According to Copithorne, when it comes to the property rights of Canadians, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker was the country’s best champion. In an effort to address deficiencies in property rights protection, Diefenbaker had drafted and enacted the Canadian Bill of Rights, which Copithorne refers to as the only real written reference to any concept of property rights in Canadian history.

The 1960 Bill of Rights protects the right of individual Canadians to “life, liberty, security of person, and the enjoyment of property.” Unfortunately, the term “enjoyment of property” turned out to be too nebulous. Diefenbaker didn’t go far enough. He didn’t clearly refer to property ownership. The Bill of Rights certainly provides some consideration for property owners, but nevertheless, it didn’t succeed at establishing property rights in law.

Copithorne says that as odd as it sounds, Pierre Trudeau unwittingly carried out something very important for Canadians. Not once does the Charter for which Trudeau was responsible make a direct reference to private property rights. Even so, the 1982 Charter did establish a division of power between the provincial legislatures and the federal parliament on the issue of property rights.

Section 92 says: “In each Province the Legislature may exclusively make Laws in relation to Matters coming within the Classes of Subjects next hereinafter enumerated, that is to say, (13) Property and Civil Rights…”

Thus the opportunity to entrench the legal rights of property owners lies with each individual province. Alberta today has the legal authority to call on Ottawa to amend the Canadian constitution as it applies to property rights in our province. The permission of no other province is needed.

“Canadians, in general — and Albertans, in particular — do not have any property rights that they can rely on in any ongoing sense,” Copithorne said. “Alberta property owners are [therefore] at the mercy of… jealousy, envy, injustice, moral decay, and big government want.”

Even today, there is nothing stopping the Alberta legislature from passing a motion calling on Ottawa to establish constitutional property rights for Albertans. Clearly, as Copithorne says, the consistent failure of the Alberta Legislature to identify property rights as a proven requirement for a peaceful, long-lasting, and secure future is a tragedy.

 

 

15th
February

Property & Freedom

Property Rights, Rick's Blog

Part five in a six-part series on property rights

Many people know that in addition to being the MLA for Drumheller-Stettler, I am the Shadow Critic for Property Rights in the Legislative Assembly. Because of this responsibility, I was recently given an opportunity to preview a soon-to-be-released publication called Property & Freedom, published by Grassroots Alberta.

More than twenty years ago, at a meeting of the Western Stock Growers Association (WSGA), rancher/businessman Marshall Copithorne delivered what for some people was a life-changing speech on the subject of property rights and freedom. I know a Youngstown-area rancher who was at that meeting, and who said many years later that being there genuinely changed his life. (Grassroots Alberta courtesy of Copithorne and the WSGA is printing the entire presentation.)

Copithorne points out that rights are given by God, not by government, and that for each of us our God-given rights include the right to life, liberty, personal property, and their enjoyment. The recognition of these rights forms the foundation of western civilization, with these ideas being traced to Moses and the tablets (and to Hammurabi in the 18th century BC who also established property rights).

Throughout history, freedom has always been advanced by individuals and societies who have defended the individual’s right to life and right to property. Indeed, many would argue, the purpose of government is to protect these two basic rights.

The narrative quotes the famous book, “Mainspring of Human Progress,” which refers to Moses and the Ten Commandments as the greatest document of individual freedom in recorded history. Interestingly, each of the Commandments is addressed to the individual as a self-controlling person responsible for his or her own thoughts, words, and actions. And they freely recognize that freedom and property are inherent to human nature.

The sixth commandment stresses the individual’s right to life—a right that must not be violated by another. The seventh establishes the principle of contract—that a contract, whether written or spoken, must not be broken. The eighth (“You shall not steal”) recognizes the individual’s right to own property. The tenth (“Do not covet what belongs to others”) emphasizes the right of ownership, indicating that not even in thought should one person violate the property rights of another.

As a society, we have moved a long way since the Stone Age. Today almost everyone depends for his welfare—for his very life—upon exchanges of ownership of property, whether that property is in the form of money, possessions, or our own labour.

Property rights are human rights. They don’t belong to the property; they belong to the individuals who hold the property. If a society is to be prosperous and free, private property rights are a fundamental and necessary condition. Private ownership encourages good stewardship, and apart from private ownership, freedom of choice would become meaningless.

The publication’s narrative recognizes that the clash between the power of government and the rights of the individual was addressed by the Magna Carta in 1215. And points out that to avoid a revolution, the Church of England recommended to the king that he recognize that the people possess certain rights. The king conceded, and the Magna Carta was proclaimed. Subsequently, there were numerous charters in England and continental Europe based on its ideals. These events, in effect, established early procedural safeguards for persons and property. In time, developing into what is now known as the Common Law.

 

 

8th
February

The Property Rights of a Grain Grower

Property Rights, Rick's Blog

Part four in a series on property rights

Though I am the Property Rights Shadow Critic in the legislature, I have to admit that I was over forty before I fully realized that the term property rights applies to much more than farmland and real estate. My education in that regard started the day I was asked: “Who owns a farmer’s grain?”

Some years ago, Manitoba farmer Andy McMechan went to jail because he believed he owned his own barley. Andy farms in the southwest corner of Manitoba, a couple of miles north of the U.S. border. His wife Pam grew up on a farm a couple of miles south of the border. They married, and in time, ran both farms.

As with any family farm operation, it was pretty normal to take machinery, cattle feed, and one thing or another from one farm site to the other.

To export barley at that time, a farmer was supposed to obtain written permission from CWB bureaucrats and pay a steep fee. Andy, believing the barley belonged to him and not to the Wheat Board, refused to pay the fee or go along. He continued moving barley between his farms.

When Canada Customs tried to seize Andy’s tractor, saying he’d used it to illegally transport grain from one farm to the other, Andy simply drove away. In the end, the government put him in jail for 155 days due to his sudden departure and other related charges.

After Andy’s imprisonment, a group of Alberta farmers realized that the bigger issue behind what had happened to Andy was property rights. “Does a grain grower have a property right in what he grows?” they asked. “And should the farmer control the sale and transport of his product, or should a government bureaucrat do that?”

Believing the federal government had an obligation to declare whether the farmer or the bureaucracy owned and controlled privately produced crops, thirteen Alberta farmers took various amounts of grain they’d grown on their farms, and in defiance of the CWB, moved it across the U.S. border. I was one of the thirteen. So was Jim Ness, who farms in the Oyen region. Jim carried a sack of barley over the border and then donated it to the 4-H kids in Sunburst, Montana. He and I later shared a jail cell.

Today, the CWB monopoly is gone. The Prime Minister of Canada personally apologized to all thirteen farmers for what had been done, and pardoned each one—no criminal records.

Happily, what remains for all Alberta farmers from that time is the assurance that their property rights are secure when it comes to the crops they grow on their farms. No bureaucrats will interfere with them or demand an exorbitant fee when they sell it.

Last week I mentioned that I’ve been previewing a soon-to-be-released publication by Grassroots Alberta called Property & Freedom. The publication quotes Friedrich Hayek, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, who said: “The power a multi-millionaire might have over me and over my property, whether he is my neighbor or my employer, is much less than what’s held by the smallest government bureaucrat or agent, who wields the coercive power of the state, and upon whose discretion it depends whether and how I am able to live, work, or make decisions.”

 

 

 

1st
February

Property shapes behaviour: Surface rights

Property Rights, Rick's Blog

Part three in a series on property rights

As the Property Rights Critic in the Alberta legislature, it is also my task to keep an eye on surface rights issues. This being true, I was recently given the opportunity to preview a soon-to-be-released publication called Property & Freedom, published by Grassroots Alberta.

The publication affirms that property rights and human rights are the same thing, and explains why. Quoting economist Walter Williams, it states: “If we buy into the notion that property rights are less important, or are in conflict with, human or civil rights, we create false distinctions and play into the hands of those who seek to control our lives.”

One section of the publication is written by Edmonton-area lawyer Keith Wilson, one of Alberta’s foremost defenders of landowner rights. Wilson says the federal government first acquired legal authority over the lands that now make up Alberta back in 1870. Seven years later, an Order-in-Council declared that homestead lands in western Canada would reserve the mineral rights for the Crown.

About forty years later, in 1930, a federal-provincial agreement then gave the Alberta government ownership and control of 86% of the province’s minerals. As development of these lands occurred, it was to be expected that one party owning the minerals and another owning the surface would lead to disputes.

Wilson says an important legal dispute was settled when the court ruled that the mineral owner possesses a common law right of surface entry, stating that apart from surface access owning minerals would be meaningless.

Yet an important question arose, namely: Who is lawfully responsible for compensating the surface owner for intrusion, loss of use, and much more?  Wilson says that question was settled by the courts in 1988 when an energy company claimed that its cost provisions in Alberta’s Surface Rights Act discriminated against oil companies. The Alberta Court of Appeal reviewed the surface rights legislation, and then ruled that whenever private land is encroached upon by the mineral owner, the surface owner is entitled to compensation.

The court said that farms in Alberta were largely obtained by homesteaders on a take-it-or-leave-it basis (they had no say over the loss of mineral rights), and that they paid for those homesteads with sweat, rather than treasure. The court also said that when a well-driller arrives the farmer would see him as a surface intruder/taker, no different from those who might take land for a pipeline or highway project. The Court thus affirmed the Surface Rights Act as a means to provide justice for the landowner.

Wilson’s chronology about landowner rights and surface rights legislation ends just prior to the provincial government’s introduction of a series of land bills (2, 19, 24, and 36), each designed to trample the legitimate rights of ranchers and farmers.

The publication’s unfortunate conclusion is that over the past ten years, landowner rights in Alberta have been greatly diminished at the hand of government. Ranchers and farmers no longer have the statutory right to a hearing when an industrial project is imposed upon private land, and the Alberta Land Stewardship Act (Bill 36), gives the bureaucracy (by authority of Cabinet) final say over what a piece of private land may or may not be used for.

Historically, only the Legislature could make or amend Acts during public sessions of the Legislature. Now, under Bill 36, Cabinet can in effect make property law and amend it from the secrecy of the Cabinet room.

 

 

26th
January

Property shapes behavior

Property Rights, Rick's Blog

Part two in a series on property rights

As the Property Rights Critic in the legislature, I was recently given the opportunity to look at a soon-to-be-released publication called Property & Freedom, published by the Grassroots Alberta Landowners Association.

The publication’s theme is that human beings are property creators, and that the ability to organize a civil and prosperous society will always be based on respect for property rights. The narrative is especially careful to point out that although the word “property” refers to farmland and real estate, it applies to much more. Property also includes a person’s labour, their inventions and creations. It includes improvements we make to things that occur naturally and that we obtain lawfully—oil is refined, minerals are processed, grain is grown, calves are born and raised, etc.

The text quotes Russ Brown, a former Alberta law professor who in 2015 was appointed Justice of Canada’s Supreme Court. Shortly before his court appointment, Brown discussed property rights on an Alberta talk show.

When asked to define the term “rule of law,” Brown’s response was precise and clear: “The rule of law, in its essence, means that we are governed by laws and not by people.”

Asked to explain the connection between the rule of law and property, Brown carefully pointed out that the law protects not just the property a person holds in land or investments, but the property we hold in ourselves—in our own persons. He said: “Property is one of those things that the law has existed to protect from the get-go. The earliest common law legal notions were notions of property, and the state, in its original form, was established to protect those rights that we have. And not just in property, but also in ourselves—in our physical bodies.”

Brown continued: “So we have, in essence, two fundamental rights. We have rights in ourselves. We have rights in our property. And where government interferes with those rights, it has to do so in a way that conforms to law. The rule of law is that governments must govern in accordance with the law, just as we live our lives in accordance with the law.”

The Grassroots publication then moves on to explain how in civil societies, individuals and businesses are constantly exchanging property rights.

When a man puts down money to buy milk from a grocer, he is essentially saying, “I hold title to these three dollars and I recognize that you (the grocer) hold title to the milk.” It’s a commercial transaction, but it’s also a transfer of property rights. The agreement they make is for the man to transfer his property right in the money to the grocer in exchange for the grocer’s property right in the milk.

The narrative then explains why the free market is the most effective way for people to willingly transfer and trade property rights. It points out that the words “free market” don’t mean that individuals and businesses are free to abuse people or act without standards. Instead, it means people are able to make free choices, exchanging the property rights they hold in money, goods, land, or labour, for other things that then become their property.

The process is summarized in a quote from U.S. President Calvin Coolidge who observed: “Ultimately, property rights and personal rights are the same thing.”

 

18th
January

It’s actually about you

Property Rights, Rick's Blog

This past week, I received some preliminary information about Freedom & Property, a soon-to-be-released publication by the Grassroots Alberta Landowners Association. It contains an excellent series of articles on the subject of property rights. I’m the Property Rights Shadow Minister in the legislature, and I’ve always had a keen interest in the issue, so I paid attention to the material.

The publication says that to understand property rights, you don’t begin by talking about land or real estate. Instead, the starting point is to recognize that we each own our own lives. Your life is your property. It doesn’t belong to the government or to anyone else. That kind of basic freedom, many would say, is God-given.

The publication points to Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave who successfully made his way north to the free state of Massachusetts prior to the U.S. Civil War. At the time, a vibrant anti-slavery movement was in full swing. Douglass, a naturally gifted orator, was often invited to speak at these rallies and at anti-slavery church meetings. He began his presentations by standing patiently before the crowd. Then he would say: I stand before you this night as a thief and a robber. See this head, these arms, these legs, these hands. I stole them from my master and ran off with them.

Douglass knew that the most basic thing any of us owns is our life. We each have a property right in who and what we are, and because we do, our labour belongs to us too.  If someone steals your car or pickup, they’re not just stealing your vehicle; they’re taking the half-a-year’s labour (or more) that you expended to buy it. Your vehicle is property, but so too is your labour. You have the right to both of them.

Another way to understand the crucial role of property in the building of civilization is to imagine some of the earliest days of human interaction. If a hunter fashioned a tree branch into a well-balanced spear, everyone would have known it was his property. If he used it to kill a bear, everyone would also have known that the meat and hide were his property.

If the hunter traded his bear hide for a primitive farmer’s wheat, it’d be an exchange of property rights. The hunter would transfer his property right to the hide, and the farmer would transfer his property right to the wheat. Their understood right to property would enable each of these men to create or acquire something useful, adding wealth and prosperity to the entire community. The development and acquisition of property always does this, which is why property in all its forms is the basis of wealth creation.

The Grassroots booklet summarizes property rights by describing how human beings are property creators and property producers. It further explains that the principle of property rights recognizes and ensures that we’re each entitled to our labour, our ideas, our hopes, and our dreams. It then reminds us that while the principle of property rights certainly applies to farmland and real estate, it has as much to do with many other things that people don’t normally think of as property.

 

 

17th
August

Alberta’s economic storm

Property Rights

The storm is not subsiding. Like waves pounding a rocky shore, Alberta’s bad economic news just keeps on coming.

According to Statistics Canada, Alberta’s unemployment rate rose to 8.6 per cent in July, the highest it has been since 1994. For the first time ever, Alberta’s unemployment rate is higher than Nova Scotia’s. Over the past year, we have lost 104,000 full-time jobs.

The continuing bad news is Alberta’s government remains unwilling to abandon ideological policies in favour of proven solutions to get our economy moving and protect working families. Solutions like keeping taxes low for families, promoting trade, spending within our means and restoring the Alberta Advantage.

Typically, the first thing ideological governments do when the economy begins to weaken is look for a scapegoat: blame the price of oil, blame the previous government, blame main street employers, and blame anyone or anything not connected to the government.

However, scapegoating is not a long-term solution. Over time this tactic offers diminishing returns as folks recognize the inherently self-serving nature of these arguments.

Of course, these type of distractions do nothing to addresses the underlying condition: a rapidly shrinking economy. Jobs are being lost. Less is being produced. Trade is declining. Without the kind of economic growth that lifts all people, political divide-and-conquer tactics lead to divide-and-flounder results.

Alberta is here.

Unwilling to budge from its pre-recession agenda Alberta’s new government chooses which businesses it will support through elaborate new tax-and-spend corporate welfare schemes, and which sectors of the labour force it will support through socialist economic policies.

It’s bringing forward policies, like a new carbon tax and dramatic increase to the minimum wage, that are forcing small businesses to close their doors. In the heart of the deepest recession since the 1980s, the government is only making things worse.

Across our province, Albertans are coming to the realization that we can do better than this, that we are better than this.

It’s time to set the politics of division aside. We need more production. We need more trade. We need the kind of economic policies that offer new hope and new opportunity to all Albertans, those will provide more jobs.

Some say that a rising tide floats all boats. It’s an apt metaphor, although it ignores a key truth: It wasn’t until a low economic tide that we have come to grasp the reality of the situation – we are all in the same boat.

The financial reefs are getting uncomfortably close! It’s time to change course.

 

28th
June

A stunt a day will keep capitalism away

Property Rights, Rick's Blog

Winston Churchill said democracy is the worst form of government—except for all the others. He added that the inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings, while the virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.

There are profound differences between capitalism and socialism. Capitalism stands for private ownership and uses the law to protect it. Socialism doesn’t. Anti-capitalists believe government should own and/or control a nation’s assets, including its natural and economic resources. That could even include ownership or control over things like wheat, oil, land, etc.

Interestingly, the world’s wealthiest and most advanced nations protect property rights, while the poorest countries have anti-capitalist economies that show little if any regard for property rights.

A Canadian example of anti-capitalist and anti-property rights thinking can be seen in the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB), a former federal agency. The CWB made it illegal for an Alberta farmer to grow wheat and then sell it outside the country, or even to sell it to a Canadian bakery. The farmer had to obtain permission first, and then pay a huge CWB transaction fee amounting to several dollars per bushel.

I was reminded of the CWB this past week as events unfolded in the legislature. It seems that NDP Cabinet Minister Shannon Phillips played a key role in the editing and producing of An Action a Day Keeps Global Capitalism Away, a book that’s designed to fight capitalism.

The book’s author, Mike Hudema, is also an outspoken opponent of the oilsands. He said the book would not have been possible without Phillips. He wrote in the preface that, “She [now Cabinet Minister Phillips] pushed me to write it, edited my work, and contributed to its content.”

The book teaches activists how to organize public disturbances, engage in stunts, and commit acts of vandalism in order to hinder private investment and stop development from occurring. It suggests that activists can fill balloons and old light bulbs with paint, and then throw them at commercial billboards. It suggests that commercial billboards can even be chopped down. It gives tips on how to use false stories to undermine or mislead the media.

One Calgary writer referred to the book’s tone as designed to teach people how to topple the rich, shut down the oilsands, and harass politicians.

In the legislature last week, when someone asked Cabinet Minister Phillips whether an individual with her anti-capitalist perspective could function as a credible Alberta Cabinet Minister, NDP House Leader Brian Mason answered the question by pointing at me.

Knowing I was one of thirteen Alberta farmers who had exported their own grain to the United States, and then willingly gone to jail for our “crime” of disobeying the CWB (I later received a Prime Ministerial pardon), Mason insisted that there is absolutely no difference between the actions of a lone farmer protecting and defending his own personal property, and those of a recently appointed NDP Cabinet Minister who involved herself in a project that advocates the denial or abolition of property rights, counsels people to deliberately mislead the media, and calls for the deliberate destruction of property that belongs to other people.

As your MLA, this is just one of the issues that I find myself having to explain, and debate, in our legislature. The truth be told, I think all Albertans should find it worrisome that some in the legislature can’t tell the difference between these two very different sets of circumstances.

The Wildrose Coffeeroom is an informal discussion forum made up of half-a-dozen Wildrose MLAs. On a weekly basis, these MLAs talk through a specific policy or fiscal issue. Then as part of the process, a short commentary is compiled and then edited by a committee of the participants. The editorial committee responsible for this commentary includes Rick Strankman, Drumheller-Stettler and Wes Taylor, Battle River Wainwright

 

14th
June

A weighty question

Property Rights, Rick's Blog

Recently, a letter to an editor was inquiring whether breaking a federal law could ever be an act of courage, virtue, or integrity. Wow. Talk about a weighty question.

There’s irony to his question too. A stable society depends upon obedience to the law. Yet historians tell us that some of the greatest advances in human freedom have occurred at a point where people were prepared to challenge a law.

It is important to recognize that law breaking and civil disobedience are very different things. Law breaking occurs in secret. No law breaker wants to get caught, whether he’s speeding, stealing, or selling a banned product or substance.

Civil disobedience occurs in the open. It’s carried out by people who conscientiously object to an unjust law, and who therefore want to make a public statement about the law. There is never an attempt to be secretive or to hide, even though it involves breaking the law. Equally important is that civil disobedience avoids violence, and the destruction of property.

People who engage in civil disobedience never avoid punishment. They welcome the punishment because they believe that accepting the punishment is the best way to show others that a particular law really is unjust. They want the injustice to be seen.

Several years ago, thirteen Alberta farmers went to prison for engaging in civil disobedience. They broke the law. One of these men, a farmer from the New Brigden area, crossed the U.S. border with a 50-pound sack of barley. He gave the barley to a local pastor in Sunburst Montana, who promised it would be donated to the local 4H kids. The New Brigden farmer, Jim Ness, didn’t try to hide or cover up what he did. He was making a point. He wanted to be arrested. He wanted to be charged with a crime. He wanted to be sent to jail. He wanted to be able to show all of Canada, and the rest of the world, that Canada’s Parliament was fully prepared to mistreat and imprison western Canadian farmers for the crime of growing, and then exporting, their own wheat and barley.

Ness went to prison. Years later, he received a Prime Ministerial pardon and formal acknowledgement that the government’s actions had been wrong. Most people would say that what Ness did took courage. I am one of those people.

Mahatmas Ghandi relied heavily upon civil disobedience to bring about independence for the nation of India. Martin Luther King Jr. used civil disobedience to advance the civil rights movement in the United States. At the Nuremberg War Trials after WWII, many leading Nazis were executed or sent to prison because they didn’t engage in civil disobedience.

At the Nuremberg trial, leading German military and government figures asked how an international tribunal could find them guilty of any crime, because every step of the way they had obeyed the laws that had been drafted and enacted by a sovereign national government. Nevertheless, the Allies (which included Canada, although the judges were British, French, American, and Russian) executed many of these officials and imprisoned many more. On what basis?

The point is that regardless of what a law may or may not say, we each know right from wrong.

 

1st
March

Alberta’s best hope for property rights

Property Rights, Rick's Blog

Most people know that Alberta’s reputation as a province that respects property rights is gone. Landowner and legal rights groups—even in Ontario and Saskatchewan—now look upon Alberta as a backwater.

What happened? Prominent landowner rights lawyer Keith Wilson says starting with Ed Stelmach, the PC government began passing “new laws that attacked property rights and the rule of law”. Wilson says it happened because the bureaucracy saw property rights and the legal rights of landowners “as obstacles to their planning needs and policy goals.”

These bureaucratically-inspired laws became known as Bills 19, 24, 36, and 50. Alison Redford eventually added Bill 2. Prior to Bill 2, if a property owner objected to something an energy company wanted to do on his or her land, the owner had the statutory right to a hearing. Bill 2 eliminated that right.

These laws caused so much anger that the government eventually repealed Bills 19 and 50. Yet because the others remain, bureaucrats and government planners can still take property from Albertans while denying them fair compensation and access to the courts. (Keep in mind that the word “property” and the term “property rights” apply to a lot of things besides real estate and land.)

Wilson, who is considered by many to be a leading professional legal analyst on the property rights issue, says Section 11 of Bill 36 still gives government the power to unilaterally amend or “rescind” grazing leases, mining rights, water licenses, plus other government approvals and contracts that individuals and businesses understand to be “property.” People make major investment decisions based on the reliability of government contracts, leases, and formal permissions. Yet in Alberta, these instruments can no longer be trusted because Section 13 of the legislation ensures no one can file a grievance with the court unless Cabinet first grants permission.

Section 17 says these anti-property rights laws take precedence over any other piece of legislation Alberta has ever passed. And Section 19 gives Cabinet the power to restrict the right to compensation.

Last fall, our Wildrose caucus introduced an important property rights motion in the legislature. The Bill called for an amendment to the Canadian Constitution that would enshrine protection of property rights for all Albertans. (To get a constitutional amendment passed that applies only to our province, the provincial legislature simply needs to pass a vote and then ask Ottawa to insert an “Alberta” clause in the constitution. No other provinces even need to be consulted.)

Jim Prentice and his PC colleagues trashed the Bill, voting it down. Regrettably, while their backsides were still red after being spanked by Prentice and his PC MLAs over this property rights issue, a number of MLAs who had supported the Bill including Danielle Smith, Rod Fox, and Gary Bikman, crossed the floor to join the PC Party, insisting that the PC’s had gone through a midnight salvation experience that resulted in a rebirth of conservative values. Unfortunately, their reborn value system doesn’t include the legal right to property.

It could be said that, Property Rights are the most important component in the rights of any citizen in a free society. The private stewardship of Albertan’s Property rights is something that my Wildrose colleagues and I are adamantly committed to protecting.

 

23rd
November

All hat and no cattle

Property Rights, Rick's Blog

Cowboys are courteous by nature. Rather than say someone is a faker or a blowhard, they will often say that the person is, “All hat and no cattle.” The phrase isn’t an insult. It’s not negative criticism. Instead, it’s a way of saying something truthful about a person while avoiding the appearance of harshness.

This past week in the Alberta legislature we learned that the “all hat no cattle” moniker fits very well around the shoulders of Jim Prentice. Here too the statement isn’t an insult or a negative criticism. It’s a statement of fact. Here’s why:

After Jim Prentice decided to seek the leadership of the PC party, he went on a province-wide tour. At every stop along the way, he spoke about property rights.

“I am passionate about property rights,” Prentice said. Successive PC governments have “been less than careful about the protection of property rights in this province,” he said.  On the day Prentice was sworn in as Alberta’s 16th Premier, he immediately donned his property rights hat to say that the fall session of the legislature would kick off with the introduction of his own personal flagship property rights legislation. We were told it would be called Bill 1.

This week Albertans got a look at Bill 1. The body of this new legislation is one sentence long and has fewer than ten words. It simply says that Bill 19 is repealed.

Bill 19 was the least controversial, and had become the most benign, of the five laws passed by previous PC governments that individually and collectively took an axe to the property rights tree. It’s good that it’s been repealed. Yet all of the most odious aspects of Alison Redford’s anti-property rights agenda are still alive and well.

Prentice buried former Minister Jack Hayden’s Bill 19 with Bill 1. Yet if Prentice’s repeated promise to fix property rights is to be fulfilled he has an obligation to repeal the others as well, and beyond that, to establish legal protection for property rights that can be trusted on an ongoing basis.

The other Bills Prentice needs to put to bed include Bill 24 (which confiscated underground property rights from all landowners—urban and rural); Bill 36 (which gives Cabinet the power to deny people access to the courts and compensation while it tears up legal agreements and contracts that control what people can and cannot do on private property); and Bill 2 (which is the law that eliminated a landowner’s statutory right to a hearing and the right to notification when government approves an energy project on private property).

Some people may not realize that the amending formula to the Canadian Constitution makes it easy for one province to have a clause inserted in the Constitution that applies only to that province. All it requires is for the provincial legislature to submit a formal request to the House of Commons and Senate.

No other province needs to be consulted. No other province is affected. No other province has to approve.

If Jim Prentice is genuine about the property rights of Albertans, rather than being all hat and no cattle on this subject, in cooperation with others in the legislature he can call upon Ottawa to insert a clause in the Constitution that enshrines and protects property rights for everyone in the province.

Then, every Albertan will be able to stand a bit taller.

 

 

16th
November

Pounding the fence posts deep

Property Rights, Rick's Blog

For most of us living in Drumheller-Stettler, few things are more important to us than property rights. We understand that the purpose of government is not to manage our lives, but to protect the right to property so individuals and families can manage their own lives.

This past week, two different proposals were put forward in Alberta that would pound the fence posts deep when it comes to protecting property rights. The Wildrose Party announced a Private Member’s Bill that calls for an amendment to the Canadian Constitution. It would apply only to Alberta. The initiative, if passed, would ensure that in Alberta the right to “real property” will be constitutionally protected. In order to pass, the initiative requires approval from the Prentice government, the House of Commons, and Senate.

The second property rights proposal advanced this week was put forward by the Grassroots Alberta Landowners Association and publicly supported by organizations like the Western Stock Growers, the Economic Education Association, and the Alberta Grazing Leaseholders Association—to name a few.

This second proposal calls for legislation that protects both real property and intangible property. Intangible property includes things like grazing leases, water licenses, oilsands leases, licenses and approvals for oil and gas wells, irrigation licenses, and formal authorizations that allow people to be in the dairy business, run a feedlot, harvest timber, or engage in a wide range of commercial activities. These types of commercial property-instruments are referred to as statutory consents.

Statutory consents are not real property in the sense that they are not physical, but on a daily basis they are nevertheless bought, sold, and traded. Many people make the biggest financial decisions of their lives based on the assumed trustworthiness of statutory consents.

Grassroots Alberta says it is absolutely unacceptable for politicians in Cabinet—not the government and not the courts, but the politicians in Cabinet—to have the power to show up at someone’s door and without cause or justification, point a finger and say. “Your oilsands lease, water license, grazing lease, or gravel extraction permit has just been cancelled.”

Since Bill 36 became law in Alberta, this is exactly the kind of power the provincial Cabinet possesses. Plus Bill 36 ensures that when Cabinet does cancel a statutory consent, its decision can’t be appealed to a court unless Cabinet gives its permission. Whether the affected party is eligible for compensation can be up for grabs too.

During his campaign to become PC Party leader, Jim Prentice repeatedly promised to undo the tragic property rights legacy of his predecessors. Wanting to hold Prentice to his word, Grassroots Alberta set out in step-by-step fashion exactly what the government must do in the legislature if Prentice is to keep his word.

The group says the property rights embodied in statutory consents must be protected by law. If Cabinet or any arm of government extinguishes a statutory consent, there has to be a justifiable reason. And if such a thing does occur, the affected party must have the right to approach a court and to fair compensation.

The group insists that every Albertan must have the legal right to be informed before a government regulator makes a decision about their property (presently this is not the case); the legal right to a hearing when government approves energy and development projects on private land (presently this is not the case); and that landowners must have the legal right to compensation when the government approves a project on adjacent or adjoining land that negatively affects the value of their property.

As the Drumheller-Stettler MLA, my responsibility, and desire, is to promote and defend your property rights.

 

9th
November

They too are property

Property Rights, Rick's Blog

The fight over property rights in Alberta these past few years hasn’t been about land ownership. It was, and still is, about the ability that PC Cabinet Ministers have given themselves to unilaterally and without cause or justification cancel legal agreements, contracts, and licenses, while denying people access to the courts, fair treatment, and even compensation.

The term property rights doesn’t just mean the right to own land. Property rights means the right to exercise the privileges, opportunities, and financial considerations associated with the ownership of a number of things, including intangible pieces of property like government leases, licenses, approvals, and authorizations.

If you’re a rancher with a grazing lease, you don’t own the land. Yet the lease means you own rights to the land. Those rights are property rights. If you’re in the dairy business you own cows. You’ll also own a legal authorization or license that enables you to be in the dairy business. That license is property just as much as the cows are property. No one can show up at your farm and without reason or justification take away your cows. Similarly, in a society that respects property rights and the rule of law no bureaucrat or politician can show up at your door and take away your dairy license without justification.

Unfortunately, the PC government declared war on property rights in Alberta when it passed Bill 36. Bill 36 is a law that empowers Cabinet Ministers and bureaucrats to simply show up at a person’s door and say that a government lease, license, authorization, or contract has been cancelled. They don’t even need a reason. Nor do they have to ask a judge for an order or ruling. Bill 36 means that in Alberta, these important pieces of property which are the building blocks of a modern economy no longer represent property rights that can be trusted.

Gravel extraction permits, timber harvest agreements, and oilsands leases are all property and are all at risk because of Bill 36. Energy companies will invest millions to determine if they want to buy a particular oilsands lease. And once they do buy it, they’ll continue to make major investment decisions based solely on the property rights that they believe the lease represents. In societies and nations where property rights are respected, no politician could ever show up at the door one day saying, “Oh, we decided we are going to cancel the oilsands lease we signed with you and do something different with that land.”

An oilsands lease is a legal contract. Yet in Alberta, because of Bill 36, it is a legal contract that can no longer be trusted. Other types of property that Bill 36 has given Cabinet the power to unilaterally cancel—while stopping people from appealing to the courts—include contracts, leases, licenses, authorizations, and statutory approvals.

Bill 36 means water licenses, irrigation permits, approvals for meat packing plants, fertilizer plants, cement plants, and timber mills are all subject not to the rule of law, but to the whims of Cabinet. The same goes for pipeline permits, licenses for oil and gas wells, and a long list of other commercial activities.

The Prentice government has said that this fall, it is intending to pass property rights legislation. As your MLA, I support that. However, my grave concern is that the government will pass a law guaranteeing property owners the right to compensation when government seizes land, yet ignore important property rights provisions that in Alberta used to be associated with things like leases, licenses, and other types of legal authorizations.  They too are property.

 

19th
October

It’s about more than just dirt

Property Rights, Rick's Blog

Property Rights are the foundation that a free society is built and maintained on. In Alberta, our foundation of freedom has been seriously compromised with the passage of the five Alberta Land Bills (19, 24, 36, and 50 in 2009, 2 in 2012), that were passed into law by the Alberta Government.

Each of these Bills in their own way have consequences in some form or fashion, to rescind property rights and/or deny access to transparent processes, including limiting or denying access to a court of law. The common thread to each of these Bills is that they concentrate power into the hands of Cabinet and out of view of public scrutiny.

In recent years Property Rights have become a much debated and controversial issue in Alberta. Understanding the entire scope of what exactly is considered Property, is the first step to understanding the issue.

When we think of property, typically we equate this to the dirt under our feet. As important as actual physical property, are the conditions that may be placed on the property in question. In order to achieve adequate rights or entitlements to property, it must include the freedoms that allow the owner the ability to use the property as an asset for commerce or enjoyment. Simply having title to a piece of land does not necessarily act as a conduit to commerce or enjoyment. Any conditions or restrictions placed on property can and do seriously curtail or eliminate the holder’s ability to pursue a desirable outcome.

To truly understand the scope of property you must first understand what is considered property. Land of course is the obvious thing that comes to mind for most people, followed closely by possessions. Often things like driver’s licenses and statutory consents are overlooked as property.

An example of how a statutory consent can have an influence on the value of a piece of property would be a CFO (Confined Feeding Operations) license required to operate a feed lot in Alberta. In this case, the value of the land would be greatly increased by the acquisition of the CFO that allows the property to be used as a tool for commerce. The arbitrary removal of that statutory consent (CFO) would have a significant impact on the value of that property and without the ability to seek legal action, virtually eliminates all rights defined as property rights.

One of the fundamental roles of government is the protection and preservation of property rights. Without such protection, our entire economy ceases to function properly. Property rights are the foundation of each individual’s and family’s financial security and prosperity.

The Wildrose is committed to the protection of Property Rights for all Albertans with the proposed Alberta Property Rights Preservation Act that would entrench property rights protection in law. Existing legislation provides for compensation, only when title is formally taken by expropriation, but not for devalued property due to government regulation. The proposed Wildrose legislation will protect your Property Rights for this type of legislative overreach.

 

27th
July

Duty of Care

Property Rights, Rick's Blog

When making any decision that governs or affects a society, the responsibility of “duty of care” should always guide the process, to ensure that all mitigating factors are being taken into account. For individuals in elected positions, this duty of careis considered part of the social contract they assume upon their election to office.  The implicit care and responsibilities held by elected individuals towards others within their society can reasonably be an expectation of them by their electorate.

Soon, the Alberta government and the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) will have a very important decision to make. This critical decision involves the sale of AltaLink by its current parent company, SNC Lavalin, to the U.S.-based company, Berkshire Hathaway.

Among the many considerations that need to be taken into account with regards to the sale, is that this is a public utility. Among the considerations of the sale of the energy company, the impact it will have on Alberta’s ratepayers, should be first and foremost. Establishing ownership of the company providing electricity is meaningless and of very little consequence to the average person; however, the escalating cost of the service is.

In tort law, a duty of care is an obligation-legal or social, which is imposed on an individual requiring adherence to a standard of reasonable care while performing any acts that could have foreseeable negative affects on others. This is the first element that must be established to proceed when establishing negligence.

Since the beginning of electricity’s deregulation in Alberta, the duty of care has been neglected, and in some cases intentionally worked around. In 2009, with the passage of Bill 50 – The Electrical Statutes Amendment Act, the burden of a needs assessment was eliminated completely. A needs assessment was the essential part of the process that determined whether a utility project was required and whether the cost justified the need. Bill 50 took that decision from the public’s scrutiny to a closed door cabinet meeting that had no discernable needs assessment or duty of care to those making the decisions.

The decisions that will be made in the near future concerning the sale of AltaLink will have no legal obligation to be made with any duty of care. The ratepayers will however have an opportunity to enforce the consequences of the lack of this unwritten social obligation, should it not be considered in the end, through the electoral process.

Affordability, of a basic necessity of life, is a reasonable expectation of obligation that any taxpayer, understandably, has of their government when considering there should always be an implied duty of care.

It isn’t a government’s place to be involved in a commercial transaction between private organizations, however when it involves a public utility that every Albertan depends upon, there is a reasonable duty of care expectation. I will be encouraging the Alberta government to take all factors into consideration and ensure proper regulations are in place, to fulfill their obligations for the duty of care they owe to Albertans.

 

 

16th
February

A property right with sacrifice and duty

Property Rights, Rick's Blog

People come to Canada from all corners of the world for reasons most of us as born and raised Canadians would find hard to imagine. Whether it’s to escape poverty, oppression or to improve quality of life, Canada provides a balance of rights and freedoms that are protected by its citizens through the right we have to democracy.

It’s hard to believe that only 11.3% of the world’s population have what is considered to be “Full Democracy” and 37.2% of people worldwide have what is considered “Flawed Democracy.” Incredibly that leaves 51.5% of all people living under governments that do not allow any form of democracy that we, from time to time, take for granted. As Albertans we are blessed to be included in the 11.3% that have the liberty to choose our own representation.

Thankfully for most of us, the thought of living under a system where you have your leadership selected for you, is unfathomable. Sadly, in this modern day and age, for 88.7% of the people on earth a lack of democracy, is their daily reality.

Recently, the Drumheller Filipino Community inducted their newly elected President Cris Indozo, and their community council for 2014. These people came from a country half way around the world, whose governments in the past have been destroyed by corruption and cronyism, and elections that have often been marred by fraud and vote buying.

The enthusiasm with which the Filipino community in Drumheller celebrated the induction of their representatives gives an appreciation for how important this right truly is, especially to those that have had to do without it.

The duty to stay vigilant and protect democracy, even in a Full Democracy, falls to the beneficiary that fortunately includes all of us in Canada. Without vigilance, inevitably, a mentality that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the democratic rights you possess tries to take hold; that mentality is socialism.

Nineteenth-century French author and political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville, who was best known for his work Democracy in America, has a quote that describes how subtle changes can erode democracy. “Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.”

More than 118,000 Canadians since Confederation in 1867, made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country. Their sacrifices have protected our citizens from servitude while preserving our rights and freedoms. These are things a mere tenth of the world’s population is able to enjoy. They come from far and wide, they come for freedom, and they come for democracy.

The right to democracy is yet another manifestation of a property right that can be measured in terms of sacrifice. The sacrifice happens by defending it and it comes with a duty that can only be fulfilled by participation in it.

 

26th
January

Property and Property Rights are entirely different things

Property Rights, Rick's Blog

The final in a four-part series on property rights in Alberta

When I first learned about the Redford government’s Bill 2 and what it does, I ended up thinking about an old Hollywood movie called the Streamline Express.

The movie was about a fictional pre-WWII train that could supposedly run from Atlantic to Pacific at 300 km per hour. Every car had two floors, extra-wide winding staircases, huge bedrooms, and a lot of other nonsense you would never see on a real train.

According to the government, Bill 2 is the 21st-century version of this fictional train. The Premier, Cabinet, and PC MLAs insist that the sole purpose of their law is to streamline Alberta’s energy regulations while protecting landowner rights.

Their new law does streamline things for the industry. But the idea that it protects landowners is Hollywood fantasy. Bill 2 euthanizes landowner rights in the same way that our veterinarian recently had to euthanize our family dog.

Early on, it made sense for the government to talk about streamlining. Prior to Bill 2, if an energy company wanted to construct a pipeline, gas, or oil facility, it had to obtain multiple approvals and certificates from more than one regulator. Yet in the government’s quest to speed up regulatory approvals, it streamlined the legal rights of landowner’s right out of existence.

Government MLAs asked themselves what they could do to make things super speedy for the industry and consequently decided that eliminating a landowner’s legal right to object at a hearing, should be a key part of the strategy. So that’s what they did.

Prior to Bill 2, if landowners objected to where an energy company wanted to locate a project or run an access road, they had the legal right to a hearing. If landowners believed the project risked contaminating ground water or could easily move ahead in some other less intrusive way, they had the legal right to a hearing. It was the law.

Now after Bill 2, if landowners have good reason to object to aspects of an energy project on their land, they are out of luck. Their statutory right to a hearing, which had been in place for years, is gone. The Redford government killed it. They used Bill 2. As your MLA, I voted against it!

The Redford government’s Bill 2 reminds every one of us about the difference between property and property rights. Property is what we own. Property rights are the legal options that determine what we can and cannot do with our property.

If the government lets you own something, say a car, but denies you the lawful opportunity to drive it or sell it, your property rights will be violated. Similarly, if you own a piece of land and the government eliminates your legal right to a judicial hearing if someone wants to do something on your property, you will still own the land—it’s still your property—but your property rights will nevertheless have been violated.

Regrettably, the Redford government has repeatedly demonstrated that when it comes to respecting the property rights of Albertans, it is willing to say all the right things, but not willing to do the right things. And as we all know, it is never the right time to do the wrong thing!

 

5th
January

The difference between Property and Property Rights

Property Rights, Rick's Blog

The first of a four-part series on Property Rights in Alberta

My friend, Barry, is crusty. He can be so blunt that he offends people. Even so, I like him. I know that underneath that hard exterior, he is good-humoured and well-intended.

Nearly two years ago, I became an MLA. Barry and I are still friends, but sometimes, when he goes off on an anti-politician rant, I say, “Ouch!” Usually, I say nothing, because I often agree with him.

Barry’s two favourite things to talk about are politicians and property rights. “Property and property rights ain’t the same thing,” he always says. “People don’t know that. Property is bank accounts, cars, houses, and land. Property rights are what the government will let you do with ‘em. If my land is mine, who I allow on or kick off is none of the government’s business.”

Barry is right. If I own a quarter-section of ground and have title to it, it’s my property. I have the right to sell it, rent it, give it away, or grow canola on it instead of grass. These are my property rights. So is the fact that I can tell a hunter, trespasser, and anybody else to get off my land.

If the legislature in Edmonton decides to pass a law saying that the government can approve, initiate, or restrict what occurs on my land, without first obtaining my permission, and then denies me the statutory right to go to court if I disagree with what it’s doing, my property rights will be violated. Just because the legislature passes a law saying that the government can trample my property rights, doesn’t mean they’re not being trampled. Just because something is legal doesn’t make it right.

Nowadays, property rights in Alberta and elsewhere in Canada don’t get trampled when governments forcibly take away land titles or seize our property. Property rights get trampled when politicians pass laws that give them control over what we can and cannot do on our own private property. Usually, the political party that does this kind of thing has some excuse. They claim to act in the public interest, or insist that they are streamlining the economic development process.

Up until a few years ago, Alberta’s track record on property rights was a thing of beauty. This rich tradition took root in the 1880s, and flourished for more than a 100 years, enabling our province to bring economic shelter and life to Canada. Alberta’s modern PC government, with more faith in bureaucratic planning than in the creativity of individual Albertans, took an axe to this tradition through Land Bills 19, 24, and 36. Since the last provincial election, these three have been joined by Bill 2, the legislative package that University of Calgary law professor Shaun Fluker referred to as “a colossal gaffe by the Alberta government,” because it deliberately retracts rights from landowners.

————-

Next week, in part two of this four-part series, I’ll look at the practical effect some of the Alberta government’s Land Bills are intended to have on individuals and businesses.

 

8th
September

Yet another reason to protect our Property Rights

Property Rights, Rick's Blog

Property rights are the most important fundamental rights anyone possesses in a democratic society. These rights must come complete with all the protections from unreasonable search and seizure afforded it under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or you actually have no property rights. Section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides everyone in Canada with protection against unreasonable search and seizure. This right provides Canadians with their primary source of constitutionally enforced privacy rights against unreasonable intrusion from the state.

On Thursday, September 5 in a high school gymnasium, approximately 350 residents of High River gathered to make some sense of what took place immediately following the June flood that devastated their town. They wanted to know why their property rights had been removed arbitrarily and who ordered this to be done.

The questions being asked by the residents were very simple and clear. Who gave the order to violate their homes and seize their property? Who will be paying for the damage done to their property and when will those funds be paid?

RCMP Staff Sergeant Ian Shardlow, who only assumed command of the High River detachment in mid July, bravely faced the crowd and gave what little information he could to the residents in attendance but they were unsatisfactory to the crowd. Other invitees to the event hosted by the Wildrose Official Opposition Leader Danielle Smith included the Premier and the Municipal Affairs Minister, who chose not to attend.

One resident explained that his “steel door was bent, creased and beat to blazes, It came off the hinges and broke my wall as well, causing over $1,600 dollars damage to the home and it’s still not fixed”. The resident also pointed out in a letter handed out at the meeting from the RCMP to Lee Cutforth, Alberta’s Property Rights advocate, the RCMP claimed this was done to protect property the irony was not lost on the crowd.

With the passing of Bills 19, 24, 36, and 50 in 2009 property rights in Alberta have been on shaky ground. Bill 36 goes so far as to removing your right to seek legal action if land is confiscated under the Bill.

Now it appears the Alberta government has found a new way to violate this basic right that all Albertans should have entrenched and out of the reach of government.

At some point in the near future the people of High River may get the answers they’re looking for but we can’t be satisfied with that. By passing the Alberta Property Rights Preservation Act, it will entrench basic property rights in the Alberta Bill of Rights and spearhead a national initiative to add property rights to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

As a member of the Wildrose caucus, I will strive to have your property rights protected.

 
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