Stop Bill 19 – Action Guide

Stop Bill 19

An Action Guide

NEW:  A DVD is now available  from a recent public meeting outlining the concerns and the erosion of Due Process of Law that results from this poorly drafted and undemocratic proposed legislation.  This DVD outlines the differences between the existing legislation (Expropriations Act) that protects Land Owner rights and the proposed legislation that relies on ‘Regulations’  that can change  ‘at the Minister’s Discretion’ .

Register at this website to request a copy of the DVD or email:  glen.w@live.ca to request a copy  or for more information.

INTRODUCTION

This is a call to action to Kill Bill 19. We need your help, and you need our help to defeat this legislation!

Bill 19 is called the “LAND ASSEMBLY PROJECT AREA ACT”. It makes null and void the Expropriations Act and the Surface Rights Act — whenever private property is seized under Bill 19.

Bill 19 eliminates all your rights under the Expropriations Act and all your rights to fair compensation provided by the Surface Rights Act. Bill 19 will only corrupt our government with unbridled power to take private property away from law-abiding citizens.

A BRIEF BACKGROUNDER

OVERVIEW:

The introduction of Bill 19, on March 2, 2009, is a draconian attempt to streamline the expropriation process of private property under the guise of acquiring land for Utility Corridors. While we agree Utility Corridors can be a good thing if well planned, the only thing Bill 19 does is to remove existing rights and give considerable power and discretion to the Minister. If Bill 19 is passed in its current form, any cabinet Minister of the Alberta Legislature can design and plan a project, apply as the applicant for approval of the project, adjudicate the approval process on their own project; and enforce their own decision.

What constitutes a project? Section 2(d) of the Act states that a project is defined as anything the Minster deems as a project.

Bill 19 streamlines the expropriation process by removing certain due-process rights, guaranteed under the Expropriations Act.

Notice:

No public notice is required of any project under this act, and although notice is required to be given to the registered owner of a property, notice only has to be sent to the last known address – and a registered letter is not required. If a person never receives notice that the government is taking their property or home, Section 4(4) makes that perfectly legal.

Appeals:

If an individual wants to appeal the Minister’s decision, they have seven days to appeal to the Minister’s self-appointed appeals Board. Most farmers and rural property owners will not even get their notification letters within seven days: never mind organize an appeal.

Penalties:

The worst part of this Bill is reserved for any Albertan who would interfere with, object to, or resist, an order from the Minister to vacate their property, or sign on the dotted line at a price determined by the Minister. Sec 3(f) states the Surface Rights Act does not apply, so even [arguably] a fair process to determine a fair price is eliminated. Under section 7 and 12 of the Act, if in the Minister’s opinion a person is doing something, or the Minister thinks a person is going to do something, the Minister can order a person to stop, or do something else. This has to be one of the most bizarre wordings found in legislation, in the history of democracy. Failure to comply with a Minister’s order can result in a $100,000 fine and/or two years in jail.

Conceivably, and it is not to far a stretch, if the Minister thinks you are going to contravene his or her orders, they can order you to stop what they think you are going to do, and if you don’t stop what they think you might do – they can put you in jail or fine you $100,000.

RIGHTS LOST UNDER BILL 19

1. The right to question the project, or the expropriation of your property for that purpose

2. The right of notification

3. The public’s right of notification

4. The right to have compensation determined by a Board

5. The right to an inquiry if the expropriating authority is not a Crown Corporation

6. The right to have a reasonable opportunity to present evidence

7. The right to be represented by counsel at an Inquiry

8. The right to be compensated immediately

9. The right to be reimbursed for legal costs

10. The right to have the first the option to buy the property back if the project is cancelled

11. The right to have the property appraised

12. The right to be reimbursed for relocation and moving costs

13. The right to be compensated for business losses

14. The rights protecting “Mineral Rights Owners” from expropriation

OTHER PENALTIES ADDED UNDER BILL 19

If an appeal of the expropriation could delay the project the Minister can require the property owner to provide security in the form and amount the appeal body considers necessary to cover the Minister’s costs. Those costs can be anything the Minister determines.

A property owner can be held liable for any costs associated with the application, if it is determined that the property owner is not complying with the Minister’s order. This also applies to delays caused by stay orders and appeals.

Under Bill 19 mineral rights can be expropriated.

LEGAL OPINION – below is a legal opinion regarding Bill 19

“The Bill has serious implications for landowners. The Bill allows the government to issue a “Control Order” to take over control of private property while the government goes through the process of assembling land for utility and transportation corridors.

In my opinion, establishing utility and transportation corridors makes good sense and benefits all Albertans. The problem, however, is that those people who own land, live in homes, or operate businesses on the land to be taken over by government will have to bear the costs and burdens from which all Albertans benefit. Because of this, if anything, the government should be going out of its way to treat these people fairly. But the Bill does not do that.

The Bill as currently written allows the government to take over control of your land for an indefinite period of time. The Bill says the government will register a “Control Order” against your land title. Anyone who might consider buying it is subject to the Order. Since the Order will restrict what you can do on the property and will likely state that no further improvements or changes of use can be made to your property, who would want to buy it and, if at all, at what reduced price?

It typically takes government several years or more to assemble land for corridors. Just because your land is designated under a Control Order does not mean that the government will actually follow through and buy your land. So, you could be faced with a long period of uncertainty where your life and/or business have to be put on hold. Putting your life and/or business on hold—and the uncertainty it brings—puts strain on personal relationships, and has both a human and financial cost. Here are some examples to illustrate the problem with the Bill:

Home Owner

Assume it is your home that is designated by a Control Order and this happens in 2009. It might not be until 2013 that the government decides to go ahead with either a purchase or expropriation. This means that for the 4 year period you will be effectively prevented from selling your house or making renovations to it. You will have to put your life on hold while you wait to see if the government is going to take things to the next level and actually buy your land. You get no compensation for this under the Bill. Assume further that during this 4-year period you need to move to another town: who is going to buy your house knowing that it is subject to the Control Order? The Bill gives you absolutely no compensation for this and allows the government to leave the Control Order in place indefinitely.

Business Owner

Assume that you operate a business on the land that is designated by a Control Order and this happens in 2009 and the government takes 5 years to decide whether to transition from a Control Order to a purchase. You had been planning on expanding your business and its buildings but now you can’t because of the Control Order. You get no compensation for this impact and the government could decide in the end not go ahead with the purchase. Either way, the Bill gives you no compensation for these real and significant impacts.

Farmer

Once the Control Owner is in place, the government controls your farm. Assume you are a dairy farmer and need to expand your dairy farm to stay competitive and economically viable. The Control Order prevents you from expanding. After a year or two passes, your farm is no longer economically viable because the Control Order prevented your expansion. You go into bankruptcy. The Bill says you get no compensation.

The important point where this Bill goes wrong is that it does not recognize the financial and human impacts of having your land taken over by a Control Order. It wrongly assumes that if the government does not go through with the purchase or expropriation you will have suffered no harm or adverse impact. Such an assumption is clearly false. The Bill gives no consideration to the human disruption and financial costs of the long waiting period between the Control Order declaration and the final government decision to purchase or expropriate.

Consultation

The government is saying that they will give notice in newspapers and consult with affected landowners prior to declaring control of private lands. I would respectfully point out this commitment is meaningless and will do nothing to help landowners. There is no standard or test that the government has to meet before it decides to issue a Control Order affecting your land and there seems no process through which a landowner could seek to convince the government not to impose a Control Order on their property.

If you have concerns about this Bill, I would recommend that you contact your MLA, the Minister of Infrastructure, and the Premier to convey your concerns and suggestions. “

The Bill could become law in the next two weeks so you need to act now!

What Can I do?

1. Call and Write a Letter to the Premier/MLA :

Please call and/or write the Premier and/or your MLA, and tell them not to pass this Bill. Also please recruit three more people to make the same request. Please ask each of the three people you recruit, to recruit three more people for the same purpose, and help us stop this Bill from becoming law!

CALL AND WRITE NOW!

Office of the Premier

Room 307, Legislature Building

10800 – 97th Avenue

Edmonton, Alberta

T5K 2B6

Phone: (780) 427 2251

Fax: (780) 427 1349

fortsaskatchewan.vegreville@assembly.ab.ca

Look up your MLA

http://alberta.ca/home/mla_contacts.cfm

http://www.assembly.ab.ca/net/index.aspx?p=mla_home

A sample letter is found at the end of this guide.

2. Write Letters to the Editor for your Local Paper

This is one of the easiest things you can do. If you see an article or hear a report that you want to speak out on, then do it! Did you know that the letters page is the most-read section of the newspaper? The press wants to hear your voice and so do the thousands of readers that go through a paper every day. Remember, while you can write to just your local paper, you can also submit your letters to bigger papers like the Edmonton Journal and the Calgary Herald, as well as national papers like the Globe and Mail and the National Post.

What is a Letter to the Editor?

· Letters to the editor (LTEs) most often discuss a recent event/issue covered by a publication, radio station, or TV program.

· They are your chance to “sound off” to your community about issues in the news. They are widely read—so make them an important part of your media strategy.

Hints:

· It is much easier to publish a letter to the editor than it is to place an op-ed.

· Your letter has the best chance of being published if it is a reaction to a story in the paper. Respond as quickly as you can.

· Keep it short and concise—150-200 words. The paper will take the liberty to shorten your letter to suit its format; the more it has to cut, the less control you have of what gets printed.

· Lead with your most important information.

· Focus on one main point and make a compelling case.

· Write in short paragraphs, with no more than three sentences per paragraph.

· Don’t write too often. Once every three months is about as often as you should write

· Put your full name, address and phone number at the top of the page and sign the letter at the bottom. You must include a phone number for verification purposes.

· Follow up to see if the letter was received.

Sample Letter to your MLA:

Re: Bill 19 “Land Assembly Project Area Act”


Dear XXXXXXX;


As a landowner and agricultural producer in Alberta I am deeply concerned with the direction this government is taking with Bill 19. In many ways I feel that this government is taking rural Albertans for granted in light of the fact that they play a key role in the provincial economy.


Bill 19 undermines any rights which landowners had left under current legislation which already placed immense barriers for landowners to get a fair outcome. Power line projects, pipeline projects, and other major infrastructure projects may be designated for quick implementation under this act, but I am also concerned that this sort of legislation will lead to further erosion of rights for ordinary Albertans in other areas.


Under a democratic government “Fair Compensation” is not something that is dictated to landowners. A democratic government does not send people to jail because they are holding up a project while they are defending their rights, and they don’t expropriate people from their property until a fair agreement has been reached.


I was very disappointed by the comments from Premier Ed Stelmach in response to questions in the legislature and I find it quite alarming that a premier would be telling Albertans that he wants to work with them for a fair process while at the same time using a back door approach by introducing a Bill that actually denies them the right to a fair process.


Bill 19 “Land Assembly Project Area Act” must not be allowed to pass in the legislature.


Bill 19 is not right for Albertans and it is not right for Alberta.


Sincerely,


XXXXXXXXXXX


Published in: on March 13, 2009 at 10:47 pm  Comments (1)  

A Voice for Concerned Albertans.

Welcome to killbill19.Wordpress.com. This website is intended to provide concerned Albertans with a voice in fighting a draconian and undemocratic legislative bill that will further erode the rights and freedoms of all Albertans.  Your participation and your input is highly valued.

The introduction of Bill 19, on March 2, 2009, in the Alberta Legislature has to be one of the most draconian attempts to streamline the expropriation process of private property known to a democratic society. If Bill 19 is passed in its current form, any cabinet Minister of the Alberta Legislature can design and plan a project, apply as the applicant for approval of the project, adjudicate the approval process of their own project; and enforce their own decision.

What constitutes a project? Section 2(d) of the Act states that a project is defined as anything they so determine.

Bill 19 makes it legal for any Cabinet Minister to take away anyone’s business home, land or private property for pretty much any reason they so desire. The Bill streamlines the expropriation process by removing certain due-process-of-law rights, guaranteed under the Expropriations Act. Section 13, of Bill 19, eliminates the applicability of the Expropriation Act, just in case anyone wants to use or invoke any provision under the Expropriations Act.

No public notice is required of any project under this act, and although notice is required to be given to the registered owner of a property, notice only has to be sent to the last known address – a registered letter is not required. If a person never receives notice that the government is taking their property or home, Section 4(4) makes that perfectly acceptable. If an individual wants to appeal the Minister’s decision, they have seven days to appeal to the Minister’s self-appointed appeals Board. Most farmers and rural property owners will not even get their notification letters within seven days: never mind organize an appeal.

The worst part of this Bill is reserved for any Albertan who would interfere with, object to, or resist, an order from the Minister to vacate their property, or sign on the dotted line at a price determined by the Minister. Sec 3(f) states the Surface Rights Act does not apply, so even [arguably] a fair process to determine a fair price is eliminated. Under section 7 and 12 of the Act, if in the Minister’s opinion a person is doing something, or the Minister thinks a person is going to do something, the Minister can order a person to stop, or do something else. This has to be one of the most bizarre interpretations and wording of Legislation in the history of democracy. Failure to comply with a Minister’s order can result in a $100,000 fine and/or two years in jail.

Conceivably, and it is not to far a stretch, if the Minister thinks you are going to contravene his or her orders, they can order you to stop what they think you are going to do, and if you don’t stop what they think you might do – they can put you in jail.

Joe Anglin

RIGHTS LOST UNDER BILL 19

1.      The right to question the project, or the expropriation of your property for that purpose
2.      The right of notification
3.      The public’s right of notification
4.      The right to have compensation determined by a Board
5.      The right to an inquiry if the expropriating authority is not a Crown Corporation
6.      The right to have a reasonable opportunity to present evidence
7.      The right to be represented by counsel at an Inquiry
8.      The right to be compensated immediately
9.      The right to be reimbursed for legal costs
10.  The right to have the first the option to buy the property back if the project is cancelled
11.  The right to have the property appraised
12.  The right to be reimbursed for relocation and moving costs
13.  The right to be compensated for business losses
14.  The rights protecting “Mineral Rights Owners” from expropriation

OTHER PENALTIES ADDED UNDER BILL 19

If an appeal of the expropriation could delay the project the Minister can require the property owner to provide security in the form and amount the appeal body considers necessary to cover the Minister’s costs. Those costs can be anything the Minister determines.

A property owner can be held liable for any costs associated with the application, if it is determined that the property owner is not complying with the Minister’s order. This also applies to delays caused by stay orders and appeals.

Under Bill 19 mineral rights can be expropriated.

Here is one anonymous legal opinion.

I agree that most all of this person’s interpretation correct except the comments about a requirement for public notice. Bill 19, Section 4 details the notification process, and limits notification to the chief administrative officer of each municipality and the registered property owner. No public notice is required in Section 4. That said, Section 4(4) eliminates any liability or requirement by the Minister to execute the notification process properly. For example: If the Minister fails to properly notify a property owner, or a municipality properly — Sec 4(4) indemnifies the Minister and the project from any mistake or failure in the notification process and requirements thereof.

Many of the suggestions made below, are already law in the Expropriations Act. For example, public notice is required under the existing Expropriations Act — however, Section 13 of Bill 19 eliminates that requirement.

Establishing utility and transportation corridors does make good sense and does benefits all Albertans. Destroying our fundamental democratic rights in the process does not!

Joe Anglin

LEGAL OPINION

You have asked me for my legal comments on a proposed new provincial Act:  the Land Assembly Project Area Act, also known as Bill 12(attached).
I have reviewed the Bill as a courtesy to you and here are my comments.
The proposed new provincial law deals with government take-over of private property.  The Bill has serious implications for landowners.  The Bill allows the government to issue a “Control Order” to take over control of private property while the government goes through the process of assembling land for utility and transportation corridors.
In my opinion, establishing utility and transportation corridors makes good sense and benefits all Albertans.  The problem, however, is that those people who own land, live in homes, or operate businesses on the land to be taken over by government will have to bear the costs and burdens from which all Albertans benefit.  Because of this, if anything, the government should be going out of its way to treat these people fairly.  But the Bill does not do that.
The Bill as currently written allows the government to take over control of your land for an indefinite period of time.  The Bill says the government will register a “Control Order” against your land title.  Anyone who might consider buying it is subject to the Order.  Since the Order will restrict what you can do on the property and will likely state that no further improvements or changes of use can be made to your property, who would want to buy it and, if at all, at what reduced price?
It typically takes government several years or more to assemble land for corridors.  Just because your land is designated under a Control Order does not mean that the government will actually follow through and buy your land.  So, you could be faced with a long period of uncertainty where your life and/or business have to be put on hold.  Putting your life and/or business on hold—and the uncertainty it brings—puts strain on personal relationships, and has both a human and financial cost.  Here are some examples to illustrate the problem with the Bill:
Home Owner
•         Assume it is your home that is designated by a Control Order and this happens in 2009.  It might not be until 2013 that the government decides to go ahead with either a purchase or expropriation.  This means that for the 4 year period you will be effectively prevented from selling your house or making renovations to it.  You will have to put your life on hold while you wait to see if the government is going to take things to the next level and actually buy your land.  You get no compensation for this under the Bill.  Assume further that during this 4-year period you need to move to another town:  who is going to buy your house knowing that it is subject to the Control Order?  The Bill gives you absolutely no compensation for this and allows the government to leave the Control Order in place indefinitely.
Business Owner
•         Assume that you operate a business on the land that is designated by a Control Order and this happens in 2009 and the government takes 5 years to decide whether to transition from a Control Order to a purchase.  You had been planning on expanding your business and its buildings but now you can’t because of the Control Order.  You get no compensation for this impact and the government could decide in the end not go ahead with the purchase.  Either way, the Bill gives you no compensation for these real and significant impacts.
Famer
•         Once the Control Owner is in place, the government controls your farm.  Assume you are a dairy farmer and need to expand your dairy farm to stay competitive and economically viable.  The Control Order prevents you from expanding.  After a year or two passes, your farm is no longer economically viable because the Control Order prevented your expansion.  You go into bankruptcy.  The Bill says you get no compensation.
The important point where this Bill goes wrong is that it does not recognize the financial and human impacts of having your land taken over by a Control Order.  It wrongly assumes that if the government does not go through with the purchase or expropriation you will have suffered no harm or adverse impact.  Such an assumption is clearly false.  The Bill gives no consideration to the human disruption and financial costs of the long waiting period between the Control Order declaration and the final government decision to purchase or expropriate.
Ways the Bill Could be Improved
There should be compensation as soon as your land is declared as being taken over by a Control Order.  There should be a strict time limit in the Act that limits the amount of time that the government can leave the Order in place for.  For example, 6 months would appear to be reasonable.  If the government wants to renew the Order for another 6 months, further compensation should be paid.  The compensation should be in form of a payment for the adverse effect and nuisance and injurious affection caused by the property owner.  Also, it would seem to make sense that once the Order in place, and the owner needs (or wants) to move because of a new job or another reason, that the government should be required to immediately purchase the property so that person and their family can get on with life.
Consultation
The government is saying that they will give notice in newspapers and consult with affected landowners prior to declaring control of private lands.  I would respectfully point out this commitment is meaningless and will do nothing to help landowners.  There is no standard or test that the government has to meet before it decides to issue a Control Order affecting your land and there seems no process through which a landowner could seek to convince the government not to impose a Control Order on their property.
If you have concerns about this Bill, I would recommend that you contact your MLA, the Minister of Infrastructure, and the Premier to convey your concerns and suggestions.  The Bill could become law in the next two weeks so you need to act now.

Published in: on March 6, 2009 at 6:01 pm  Comments (1)