The Alberta government has churned out a parade of anti-property rights laws these past few years. Bill 19 originally gave government the power to put development decisions about private property under the control of a Cabinet Minister.With Bill 24 the government seized control of privately-owned pore spaces. Pore spaces are sub-surface hollow spots, like the holes in a sponge. In Ontario, landowners lease pore spaces to utility companies for more than $100 per acre per year. In Alberta, as a result of Bill 24, these condominium-like storage spaces now belong to government and are controlled by politicians.
Then came Bill 50, which gave Cabinet the power to spend billions on power transmission lines without assessing whether they were needed. The Bill is in the process of being repealed.
Now we have Bill 2. Bill 2 is designed to create a new energy super-regulator, thereby making it easier for energy projects to be approved in a speedy fashion. A noble objective, but a key to the Bill’s inner-workings is that it eliminates Section 26 of the Energy Resources Conservation Act, which is the place in law that contains legal provisions that give landowners the right to be heard when an energy company wants to do something on private property.
Bill 2 as it is being proposed provides the new regulator with the power to say what can and cannot be done on private property, while at the same time, denying the landowner any role in the process including when he or she objects to the regulator’s decision.
U of A Law Professor Russ Brown says the government is removing procedural protections for landowners. He told the Calgary Herald that, “Under Bill 2, the consolidated regulator will be making decisions respecting the landowners land, but if the landowner has some objection or if there’s been something overlooked, they can’t appeal.”
Grande Prairie lawyer Darryl Carter says Bill 2 will extinguish the statutory right landowners previously had if they were adversely affected by a proposed project. Carter says that under the new legislation, “whether or not a landowner received a hearing would be subject to the whim of the regulator.”
Lawyer Keith Wilson, who formerly worked with the Office of the Farmers’ Advocate, says to dismiss the provisions in Section 26 of the ERCB Act would be a tragedy because this is the place, in law, that forces the regulator to give landowners appropriate opportunity to have their legitimate interests heard, and considered. And because this provision is statute law, if the regulator ignores landowner interests, landowners have the right to appeal to the Courts.
Everyone should support streamlined development, but Bill 2 is terrible legislation because it deliberately gives the regulator the power to bulldoze people, especially landowners, ignoring their right to be heard when it comes to a regulatory decision affecting private property.
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