Press Release: Study finds Albertans besieged by property regulations

Press Release: Study finds Albertans besieged by property regulations

Calgary, AB: The Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) today released its study entitled, “Regulation of Property Use and Regulatory Takings in Alberta”. The study found that the private property rights of Albertans are being eroded by regulations on private property.

The study was written by Russell Brown, Associate Professor of Law and Associate Dean (Graduate Studies) at the University of Alberta, and Graham Purse, Student-at-Law at Miller Thomson LLP in Regina, Saskatchewan.

The study identifies and examines the frequency and severity of government regulation of the property rights of Albertans. While some of the regulations identified only have a minor effect on the property owner, with many, the effect is much more severe. Often, the effect is so severe as to strip away all uses of the property. In that last instance, government regulation is said to effect a “regulatory taking”. A regulatory taking occurs when government uses regulation to strip away all uses of the property, rather than expropriating and paying compensation to the owner.

This study found 944 instances in Alberta legislation of private property being regulated, including regulatory takings. Many of these legislative provisions contain multiple types of such regulations. Whether by way of restrictions on the use of property, seizure of property, easements, searches without a warrant, or various interferences in market activities affecting land owners, Albertans are subject to a vast array of restrictions on their private property.

In particular, this study reveals the three most severe restrictions on private property in Alberta exist under legislation authorizing property search (with or without warrant), seizure of property, and taxation of property. There are 42 statutory provisions that authorize property searches in Alberta, 36 statutory provisions that authorize seizure of property, and 16 that authorize taxation of property.

Moreover, this study reveals that, among all the forms of regulation of property rights considered, legislative provisions that restrict the use of private property represent the most prevalent form of regulation with 192 of these sorts of legislative restrictions, followed by legislative limitations on the ability of property owners to exclude others from their property at 147 such provisions, and 123 legislative provisions that limit rights of disposition of private property.

CCF Executive Director Chris Schafer said, “Canada’s legal regime for the protection of property rights is glaringly deficient, particularly where the regulation of use can effectively strip a property owner of all rights in the property without fair compensation. There is no recourse for property owners in Canadian law against these kinds of ‘regulatory takings’”. Schafer added, “In Alberta, as is the case in every other province in Canada, private property is not truly private”.

The study is freely available for download on the CCF website:

The Canadian Constitution Foundation is an independent, non-profit registered charitable organization whose mission is to defend the constitutional freedoms of Canadians through education, communication and litigation.