Actions reveal intentions for property rights

In Part 1 of this four-part series, we talked about the difference between property and property rights.

In Part 1 of this four-part series, we talked about the difference between property and property rights. Property is what we own — things like cars, houses, investments, leases, farms, ranches. Property rights are what we can and can’t legally do with these things. A truck is property. The ability to drive or sell it is a property right.

Right from the get-go, the government has sworn up and down that not a single sentence in its various land bills would trample the property rights of Albertans. Yet vast numbers of lawyers, law professors, business, agriculture, and landowner organizations have demonstrated that this is not true — that the bills were designed to rewrite property rights legislation in Alberta.

Repeatedly, these critics have been proven right.

Bill 19 was designed to allow the government to get around the terms of the Expropriation Act, which requires that any landowner be fully compensated if his or her property is seized. Under the bill, if the government ecided that for some reason it might want to take control of somebody’s land 20 or 25 years from now, it could register a caveat against the title today. Then it could file a legal notice telling the landowner’s bank or mortgage company that the government had final say over what the landowner could and couldn’t do on his or her property. The land would still belong to the landowner, but according to Bill 19, the government would own crucial elements of the property rights that are attached to that land.

Opposition to Bill 19 became so fierce that the PC government was forced back into the legislature to repeal or amend key chunks of it, thereby neutralizing its effect.

Much the same thing happened with Bill 50, which was structured to work in conjunction with other land bills in order to trample landowner rights.

Bill 50 was deliberately designed to make the complex approval process for new power line construction a political decision by cabinet, rather than an economic decision based on an impartial assessment of need. The Redford government, publicly embarrassed into admitting this, was subsequently compelled to repeal the law.

I read somewhere that one of the most dangerous things we can ever encounter is a sincere politician armed with good intentions who wants to manage or control things that belong to other people.

The details of these PC land bills and the government’s consistent hard-line response to the individuals and organizations who have criticized these laws paint a bleak picture of the attitude the current government has toward the property rights of Alberta people.

Thus far, Albertans have been able to neutralize two of the four PC land bills.

Next week, in part three of this series on property rights, we’ll look at Bills 24 and 36, and then at the way government has used Bill 2 to board up the doors of the courthouse, extinguishing legal rights that Alberta landowners, in the past, have always been able to rely upon and trust.

Rick Strankman of the Wildrose Party is the MLA for the Drumheller-Stettler riding.

− From the Legislature