PC leadership hopeful Prentice talks property rights in Wildrose country

A candidate in the Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership race is promising to change land-use rules that have angered some rural voters.

MEDICINE HAT — A candidate in the Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership race is promising to change land-use rules that have angered some rural voters.

Jim Prentice told the Medicine Hat News that he would rewrite the Land Stewardship Act if he becomes premier and would be more careful about private property rights.

Prentice says the changes would include spelling out property rights to include compensation processes as they existed before 2011.

He says he would also make changes to the Alberta Energy Regulator to give landowners greater access to hearings if they feel they might be negatively affected by development.

The Progressive Conservative Party lost every rural riding south of Red Deer in the 2012 provincial election.

The Wildrose Party rode the property rights issue hard and gained Official Opposition status.

“I think the government has disrupted the balance that existed in this province between the rights of private individuals on one hand and the development authorities and industrial users,” Prentice said Tuesday.

Prentice also said he strongly supports regional planning.

“We need regional plans and regional plans can be the best defence for property owners,” he said.

“In other respects I don’t think successive governments have been careful about private property rights, which are the bedrock of this province.”

Two Wildrose members of the legislature from southern Alberta said Prentice is promising what they have been demanding for almost three years.

Medicine Hat MLA Blake Petersen dismissed Prentice’s pledge as nothing but damage control.

“It could be seen as an olive branch to voters who were really offended by the legislation,” he said. “But since the whole party passed it, I’m not sure if he’ll have much luck rewriting it.”

Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes said he hopes Albertans remember which party has been fighting for private property rights.

“For him to take up the Wildrose position is good for Alberta, but I hope Albertans remember where this is coming from.”

Prentice is competing to replace Alison Redford as party leader and premier along with former infrastructure minister Ric McIver and former jobs minister Thomas Lukaszuk.

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