Alta. moves to clear up land stewardship legislation

Amendments to Alberta’s much-disputed Land Stewardship Act are expected to clarify aspects that the province says critics have “misinterpreted” as being an attack on property rights.

“This government has always and will always respect all existing property rights,” the province’s Sustainable Resource Development Minister Mel Knight said in a release Tuesday announcing the planned amendments.

“The proposed amendments only strengthen our commitment to those rights and to consult with Albertans and develop regional plans under the Land-use Framework through a transparent and accountable process.”

First proposed by the Stelmach government in 2009, the province’s Land Stewardship Act was meant to support implementation of the province’s new Land-use Framework, by setting up larger land-use regions and a Land-use Secretariat, authorizing regional plans, creating regional advisory councils and addressing the “cumulative effects of human and other activity.”

The province at the time said it viewed the purpose of the framework as being to manage growth while respecting property rights and municipalities’ decision-making authority.

The changes announced Tuesday “will create a review process for people who believe they are directly and adversely affected by a regional plan,” the province said.

The changes “will also require public consultation during planning and that draft regional plans be provided to the legislature before being approved.”

“Never included”

Furthermore, the province stressed in its release Tuesday, “the government’s intent is to co-ordinate, not prescribe, land-use decisions of municipal governments and other decision-makers.”

Also, the province said, one of the new amendments “specifically clarifies that land titles and freehold mineral titles were never included in the definition of statutory consents.”

Among those opposed to the original Act, the Western Stock Growers Association recently said in Alberta Farmer that it “recognizes that the Land-use Framework process is the Alberta government’s attempt to address competing land uses (but) at the heart of WSGA’s concerns is the absence of property rights.”

Writing in the Alberta ag paper Jan. 17, the Calgary-based WSGA’s president Bill Hanson said the original legislation “gives government the ability to amend or extinguish any government statute consent such as a land title, licence, grazing or mineral disposition” and “limits the right to compensation for the landowner.”

That said, the group granted it was “encouraged by the holistic land-planning goals of (the Land-use Framework), which outlines a balancing of societal, environmental and economic goals.”

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