Rating Property Rights

Media Appearances, Property Rights, Frontier Centre

The Frontier Centre has released the first Canadian Property Rights Index.

The centre is a think tank founded in 1999 and headquartered in Winnipeg. Its research is directed specifically at economic issues facing the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

The March 14th report, written by Joseph Quesnel, was fashioned along the same basis as a U.S. property rights index, rating how each of the 13 jurisdictions in Canada handled property rights.

The report was based on the premise that "secure property rights are integral to a flourishing economy," plus noting that it provided "essential individual protection for average Canadians."

There were eight indicators used to evaluate how property rights in a particular province or territory are hindered, safe-g ua rde d, or allowed to flourish.

These indicators are: registering/ transferring property, expropriation, land use planning and constructive taking legal doctrine, municipal power of entry, civil forfeiture, heritage property designations, endangered species, and wills and successions.

Nova Scotia had the best property rights score at 68 per cent, while PEI was in last at 47 per cent. Ontario placed seventh at 59 per cent, ranging from 80 per cent for expropriation, to a low of 16 per cent for land use planning.

The report noted that Ontario's Greenbelt Act and the Plan to Grow Act ranked among the worst in the nation, which has caused "a significant strain on property rights."

"It is not possible under Canada's legal regime to know when regulation ends and an actual taking begins," stated the report. "The mere regulation of property, even if it devalues the property, is not a taking that requires compensation."

The report detailed a Supreme Court decision which sided with the City of Vancouver that they didn't have to pay compensation to Canadian Pacific, after regulating their discontinued railway as a public throughfare, thereby eliminating all economic value.

The Court agreed that the regulation did remove the economic value, but also said "it was not a taking," therefore no compensation was required to be paid to the railway compa ny from the City of Vancouver.

Canadian law actually allows "tens of thousands" of individuals and companies to legally expropriate land, stated the report.

The provinces also differed on whether their municipalities had power of entry, or not. British Columbia, for instance, required that 24-hour notice be given, plus a warrant was required, plus there was legal oversight.

Ontario, on the other hand, did not require notice, there was no warrant required, plus there was no legal oversight on the municipalities' employees actions when entering private property.

Reforms listed in the report detailed the efforts of MP Scott Reid and MPP Randy Hillier in attempting to place property rights, or the right to timely and full compensation, in the Constitution.

Other reform suggestion were to roll back regulations in a systematic way, establishing a centre devoted to the property rights issue, and to develop a system of compensation.

"Absent constitutional protection, these rights are at the mercy of legislatures," stated the report. Politicians "view the issue in isolation rather than seeing a broader, consistent field," it stated.

Citing a quote from a 1909 Canadian court case, "the prohibition thou shalt not steal has no legal force upon the Sovereign Body."