Gateway Gazette

Alberta is Well Overdue on Abolishing Squatters’ Rights

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 ofthe 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.wildro.se/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

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