Property and property rights different things

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

Final part 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-Second World War train that could supposedly run from Atlantic to Pacific at 300 kilometres 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 21stcentury 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!

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