Lawrence Solomon: Tyranny of the north
Alberta passes draconian laws abolishing property rights
Venezuela’s dictator, Hugo Chavez, was in the news this week for brashly announcing an expropriation of the mineral rights of the citizens of his country. We don’t seize private property that way in our democracy. We seize it silently and in plain sight, as seen in the province of Alberta, which so deftly passed stealth legislation two years ago that most Albertans are only now discovering the government’s audacious takeover of their property rights.
The stealth occurred through a suite of four cleverly worded laws passed under the radar in 2009 and 2010. Their effect is to place all economic power in the hands of Cabinet, usurping the role of the legislature and negating the role of the courts.
“These laws — which have just been used to tear up some two dozen oil sands leases — are without precedent in either Canada or the Western democracies,” states Keith Wilson, an Edmonton-area lawyer who recognized their implication a year ago and has been criss-crossing the province ever since to argue for their repeal. “The Alberta Cabinet can do virtually anything it now wants to do — it can tear up any contract that it had made without any recourse by the party on the other side. That contract could be a farmer’s water licence or grazing lease, a real estate company’s development rights, a forest company or a mining company lease, anything.” (Financial Post)