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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Stier - Alberta is well overdue on abolishing squatters’ rights

MLA Pat Stier

Livingstone-Macleod MLA Pat Stier - Last session, you may have read about my efforts in the Legislature to amend the draconian Bill 36 – the Alberta Land Stewardship Act (ALSA) – and other unpopular property laws.  At the time, I introduced Bill 210 – a private members’ Bill to fix these laws. When that session ended, Bills not completely processed had to be re-introduced, and as a result, I’ve prepared a new, enhanced Bill to protect landowners – Bill 204.  In addition to accomplishing many of the same objectives as Bill 210, Bill 204 will bring Alberta into the 21st century by abolishing squatters’ rights – something landowners have been waiting patiently to see happen for years.

Under certain conditions, squatters’ rights (adverse possession) allows occupants of land without a valid agreement for ten years or longer to take possession and obtain a title for that same land. Only Alberta and Nova Scotia have squatters’ rights laws still on the books. Legal experts have panned these laws as outright archaic. And the Alberta Property Rights Advocate recommended eliminating squatters’ rights back in 2014.

It’s high time we caught up to the rest of the country and abolished squatters’ rights in this province. Landowners and Wildrose have known this for years. But where will the NDP fall when push comes to shove? That remains to be seen.

Just last February, however, the NDP supported a Wildrose motion to abolish squatters’ rights in the Legislature’s Resource Stewardship Committee. And the NDP used to be very critical of anti-property rights laws, including ALSA, when they were in Opposition. Now that they’re in power, though, the NDP has been coy about taking real steps to fix property rights in our province. Bill 204 is a golden opportunity for the NDP to put its money where its mouth is, and work with the Opposition to accomplish something good for Albertans.

Beyond abolishing squatters’ rights, Bill 204 will restore the rights of landowners taken in ALSA by legislating back in the right to fair hearings to mitigate harm, the right to recourse through the courts, and the right to fair and timely compensation. Bill 204 will also protect the rights of the holders 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 the Cabinet or regional planning decisions. And the Bill will propose 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 and be provided with a mechanism to have their concerns addressed.

The NDP can’t just cross their fingers and hope this issue goes away. Wildrose will fight for the property rights of Albertans until these bad laws are off the books.

You can read Bill 204 at www.wildrose/204. If you aren’t currently represented by a Wildrose MLA, I urge you to reach out to your local MLA and demand they support this common sense Bill in the Legislature.

Alberta is well overdue on getting this right.

Pat Stier is the Wildrose Shadow Minister for Municipal Affairs and the MLA for Livingstone-Macleod

1 comment:

  1. Phil Burpee31/3/17

    Mr.Stier makes some excellent points. However, the bill ought to be expanded to include a return to landowners of ownership of their subsurface resources - something taken away at the urging of the coal and railroad barons early in the twentieth century. If the Crown had been more conscientious over the last hundred years and not allowed for the robbery of these resources, then things might be left as they have been. But this has not been the case. Extraction companies can apply for forced entry if landowners do not agree to their terms - typically weighted towards the company.

    Also, this bill should address the issue of 'duty of care'. This legal precept allows as how an issuer of a license under which damage is done must be ultimately responsible for said damage. This has been before the courts in the lawsuits brought by Jessica Ernst of Rosebud against well-drilling outfits and the government of Alberta as the license issuer. The government, under the purview of the energy regulator, has so far successfully absolved itself of any duty of care in these matters, claiming itself to be exempt. This is wrong.

    These issues need not be politicized - the loss of rights and recourse have occurred or persisted under Liberal, UFA, Socred, PC and NDP administrations. Perhaps indeed the current administration can begin to redress some of these wrongs. It is certainly time to do so.

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