Over the past decade, rapid growth and increasing population made it clear that our province needed a new approach to managing our land and natural resources to help us achieve our long-term environmental, economic and social goals.
We introduced the Land-use Framework in 2008 and committed to developing regional plans for each of seven new regions. As we developed the first two plans, in the Lower Athabasca and South Saskatchewan regions, and after we passed the Alberta Land Stewardship Act, we heard concerns about property rights in the province.
Albertans said that property rights should not be compromised for the purpose of managing growth or development.
We absolutely agree.
In spring of 2011, ALSA was amended to clarify the original intent of the legislation – to plan for the future needs of Albertans and to manage growth while respecting existing property rights.
Amendments included a clear statement that government must respect the property and other rights of individuals. Others said that ALSA respects all existing appeal provisions in Alberta legislation and does not limit existing rights to compensation. And, public consultation is required before regional plans and amendments to these plans are made.
Property Rights Task Force
In November of 2011, Premier Alison Redford appointed the Property Rights Task Force to address property rights concerns raised by Albertans.
Over the next two months (December 2011 and January 2012), the Property Rights Task Force heard the concerns of Albertans and their suggestions for securing property rights. The Task Force had the opportunity to visit communities across the province and received input from hundreds of Albertans from all walks of life.
Task Force members were struck by the strong and deep emotions shared by Albertans as they discussed their land, their lives and their rights. This emotion is fuelled by many factors – difficult past experiences, current problems and challenges, concerns about the future, Albertans said that in no uncertain terms that they must be actively consulted about management approaches and decisions on land use that affect them. They need to be assured that they have access to courts and representation to negotiate – or argue against – actions that could affect their property rights and, where ground must be given, they expect appropriate compensation.
Refer to theReport of the Property Rights Task Force (2012) summarizing a range of issues brought forward to the Property Rights Task Force as well as the ideas proposed to address those concerns.
Fundamental to Our Democracy
In no uncertain terms, the Government of Alberta will respect the property rights and other rights of individuals.
Property rights are, as one Albertan said during a task force public session, “the fundamental underpinnings of our democracy and society.”
Property rights are enshrined in Alberta’s Bill of Rights (2002), passed by the government of Peter Lougheed, in 1972, as follows:
“It is hereby recognized and declared that in Alberta there exist without discrimination by reason of race, national origin, colour, religion or sex, the following human rights and fundamental freedoms, namely:
(a) the right of the individual to liberty, security of the person and enjoyment of property, and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law ….”
Property Rights Advocate Act
After meeting with Albertans across the province and hearing from more than 1,400 Albertans, feedback given to the task force and then provided to the Alberta government was used to develop new legislation.
Bill 6, the Property Rights Advocate Act (2012), received Royal Assent this past March. The Act called for the creation of a Property Rights Advocate who would report to the Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General.
On December 10, 2012, the Government of Alberta announced the appointment of Lee Cutforth as the province's first Property Rights Advocate. As Property Rights Advocate, Mr. Cutforth will work with Albertans to provide impartial and independent information to deal with issues that could affect their property rights and help them find the appropriate resolution mechanism when disputes arise.
Mr. Cutforth's three-year term began December 11, 2012. The Property Rights Advocate will have offices in Lethbridge and Edmonton.
Visit the Property Rights Task Force to learn more about the Property Rights Advocate.
The Valuable Input of Albertans
Albertans expect their government to balance the impact of growth with the long-term environmental and social benefits they expect from resource development.
We believe that the valuable input received during the task force sessions will help us with short-, medium- and long-term actions that can provide greater certainty and better respect property rights.