Our province’s prosperity depends, to a considerable degree, on how much we respect property rights. Good fiscal policies – including competitive taxation – are key to improving the economy, but a commitment to strong individual property rights is foundational for a thriving economy.
Recently, the Frontier Centre for Public Policy released its 2023 Canadian Property Rights Index. It has been a decade since the first index was published. The index looks at 7 different indicators of property rights: land title system, expropriation, regulatory takings, civil forfeiture, heritage property, endangered species, and municipal power of entry.
Besides the connection of property rights to our economic well-being, property rights are also central to our privacy and to our freedom from unnecessary government intrusion into our lives. As a free society, property rights undoubtedly matter.
The good news is Manitoba is in the top 5 high performing jurisdictions in Canada a placing it shared with Saskatchewan in the 2013 index. The not-so-good-news is Manitoba comes in at fifth place of the top five, so it is the lowest scoring among the top five. It scored the same way in the 2013 index. This shows the province is neither improving nor getting worse.
Manitoba scores well because – like the other Western provinces – it maintains a Torrens style form of property title registration. This contrasts with the deeds system, which is more common among the Atlantic provinces and parts of Ontario. The Torrens provides more security of title by maintaining a central land registry and provides funding if there are costs associated with errors. The Torrens system is also more simplified and less costly.
Manitoba also provides more procedural safeguards if property owners find themself in a situation where the government is trying to expropriate their land. On municipal power of entry, Manitoba maintains safeguards to protect landowners. On civil forfeiture where the state can move to take away your property for alleged criminal activity, Manitoba also scores high on safeguards against abuse. Lastly, on heritage property, Manitoba performs relatively well.
Where does Manitoba score poorly?
On endangered species – this is where the government interferes with a person’s property because an endangered species of wildlife or plant has been discovered – Manitoba doesn’t perform as high as other jurisdictions.
Manitoba performs poorest on zoning regulations that limit how a property owner can use their property, which often reduces its value. Manitoba has tough restrictions on rights to compensation. On this aspect, Manitoba isn’t alone. Many provinces and territories limit compensation to those affected by municipal and provincial regulation.
In fact, Canada as a country does a lousy job of compensating landowners who are affected by these land use regulations compared to other advanced countries.
So, while Manitoba scores well over all, there is no room for complacency.
Property rights are an abstract concept for many people but they are critical to our generally high living standards. As the province inches closer to a general election in the fall, the NDP and the reigning Progressive.
Conservatives must commit to improving property rights and both parties should pledge to provide more protections, especially in the form of relief from land use regulations that subtly degrade the economic future of the province.