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Political battle lines are being drawn over the issue of diminishing land rights in Alberta with the Wildrose Alliance saying Wednesday they will repeal land-use legislation if elected.
The Land Stewardship and Electric Statutes Amendment acts – which were known as bills 36 and 50 prior to their passage in 2009 – are eroding property rights across the province, say opponents of the legislation including Drew Barnes, a candidate for the Wildrose Alliance Party in Cypress-Medicine Hat.
“Its been the interpretation out there,” said premier’s office spokesperson Cam Hantiuk.
“Nothing can be further than the truth.”
The Land Stewardship Act created a framework for regional advisory councils and, according to government literature, will allow for maximum use of resources such as water by coordinating development between municipalities.
According to the Alberta Government, the Electric Statutes Amendment Act is primarily seeking to address the enhancing of four electrical transmission corridors. Those corridors are between Calgary, Edmonton and Ft. McMurray but may include a fifth area in southern Alberta to accommodate wind energy production.
Critics, though, maintain these acts will give the provincial government the right to bully property owners to give up land without due process or proper compensation.
Hantiuk conceded some of the language may need to be made more clear to indicate land rights aren’t being taken away from property owners but maintains due process is still in place.
“This premier, this government does not believe in expropriation without compensation,” he said.
“If we need to introduce clarified language, we will.”
The interpretation of the acts by critics is skewing the intent of the legislation, Hantiuk added, and if the laws are repealed – especially ones concerning development – they “would need to be replaced.”
Local WAP candidate Barnes said Wednesday, if elected, the party would replace the legislation with a law that would enshrine land owners rights provincial and seek to include them in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Barnes said that before the 2009 legislation became law, landowners had the ability to access the courts to counter land appropriations by government or receive full value compensation.
“Bill 36 has taken that out. It’s put the power in cabinet to extinguish rights,” said Barnes.
“With Bill 50, it appears to be forcing the cost of new electric lines – that may be over built and everybody has to pay for – without hearings to agree that they are needed.”
He compared the process which enacted these laws with the Royalty Review Framework.
“We got ourselves into trouble with the oil industry, with the royalty change, without enough consultation and here we are with Bill 50 doing a similar thing – without consultation with industry and electricity users,” said Barnes.
“And with Bill 36, without allowing landowners and Albertans to have consultation.”
While the differences in interpretations of the legislation between the Tories and Wildrose are dramatic, both agree no landowner has yet to see their land expropriated under the new laws.
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