The United Conservative Party (UCP) has recently come up with an eight-point plan that is supposed to restore property rights to us in Alberta.
This initiative is on the right track and long overdue but it has some glaring omissions, which I will try to highlight.
Having a plan and getting it into approved legislation will not be easy.
Years ago I can remember attending PC conventions at which we presented well thought out resolutions on property rights to the meeting that were debated and passed.
Well, that always seemed to be the last we heard of them.
During the Stelmach years, the government passed four acts that actually removed property rights. Those were bills 19, 24, 36 and 50.
Bill 50 was repealed a few years ago so it is no longer an issue.
The most egregious of those bills was section 11 in Bill 36.
If I remember right it gave the government the right to confiscate or change the use of land from corporations and/or individuals alike.
The real problem with trying to instil property rights in Alberta is the bureaucracy.
By instilling property rights, it removes power from the bureaucrats so they will strenuously oppose it.
That is why our property rights resolutions never got to first base.
Those iniquitous bills were passed, I think over 10 years ago and gave civil servants tremendous power over property in Alberta.
The glaring omission in the UCP property rights plan is that it does not mention doing anything about those bills.
They need to be repealed or seriously revamped so that property owners and the lessees have control of that property again.
The other issue with that plan is the Special Areas Act.
This Act gives the Municipal Minister absolute dictatorial power over property in a large area of Alberta since it was passed in 1938.
The board that administers the Act is approved by the minister and is responsible to the minister, not to the residents who live in the area.
In 1980, David and Linda Hansen bought a ranch near Cessford, Ab. that had a small dam on it.
A year or two later the government wanted the dam and adjacent lands for an irrigation project.
They determined that the dam had no value and so the Hansen’s refused access.
The Hansen’s spent $100,000 on legal fees and the government spent $1,000,000 dollars.
As a result, David was so stressed from the legal wrangling that he couldn’t sleep and died at age 62 of a heart attack.
The Act gave the Hansen’s no constitutional or legal right to private property.
The UCP is correctly using this situation as an example of an egregious case of trampling on private property rights.
The Hanson’s have been legally abused in court by successive provincial governments for 35 years and it still isn’t settled.
The UCP hasn’t made the link that it is the Special Areas Act that is and was the cause of the Hansen’s situation and other similar situations in the Special Areas.
Our MLA, Rick Strankman, has been accused of trying to destroy the Special Areas.
What he has been trying to do is have changes made that would give the residents of the area property rights.
Special Areas No. 1 was the area around Medicine Hat, so what was part of that Special Area is now rural municipal districts and they have property rights with elected councils to administer their own affairs.
The remaining Special Areas has matured and developed to the point now that they could be converted into a rural municipal district similar to the County of Paintearth where I live.
The broad smear campaign that is going on in the Drumheller-Stettler constituency is unjustified when all the MLA has been trying to do is secure the same property rights for those residents that the rest of us in rural Alberta enjoy.
by Herman Schwenk