Lawyer speaks out against legislation

Central Albertans are being urged to fight back against three provincial laws centring on widespread land use planning, the government’s ability to acquire land and increasing power transmission lines.

Central Albertans are being urged to fight back against three provincial laws centring on widespread land use planning, the government’s ability to acquire land and increasing power transmission lines.

Keith Wilson, a lawyer from St. Albert who concentrates on various land issues, is criss-crossing the province over the summer to share his and other groups’ concerns about government legislation passed in recent years.

Bill 19 (Land Assembly Project Area Act), Bill 36 (Alberta Land Stewardship Act) and Bill 50 (Electric Statutes Amendment Act) can be repealed by the government, he said.

Wilson speaks for about 90 minutes on what these laws will mean for average Albertans. He then invites questions and answers. He’ll be at Spruce View Community Hall in Spruce View on Monday at 1 p.m., followed by a 7 p.m. meeting the same day at Ponoka’s Ol’ Moose Hall.

He already appeared in Torrington on Wednesday night and held a meeting in Clive on July 26.

Wilson said he’s not doing these 20 meetings to garner business because he’s already busy enough. He’s concerned with the legislation’s negative impacts on people. The Legal Education Society of Alberta asked him in 2009 to research these bills.

“I was astounded at what I was reading,” Wilson said on Wednesday.

He wrote a research paper about his concerns and soon after, various municipalities, landowner groups and cattle organizations asked him to speak. Wilson along with his wife are primarily financing the speaking tour. Landowners Against Bills Society, initially started north of Edmonton, is paying for some costs like advertising.

“I would probably guess that two-thirds of the time, we get a sponsor,” said Wilson. “We’ve had so many requests for meetings.”

Bill 19 allows the provincial government to buy land for large-scale, long-term transportation and water management projects, like ring roads and reservoirs. The government says the law ensures landowners are consulted and fairly compensated.

The stewardship act, or Bill 36, was passed two years ago and was meant to streamline and regionalize land-use planning while protecting environmental and historic resources.

The Electric Statutes Amendment Act provided for the staging of multi-billion-dollar transmission projects, including a pair of Edmonton-to-Calgary lines. The Western Alberta Transmission Line runs through Central Alberta roughly in line with Rimbey and the Eastern Alberta Transmission Line runs on a Hanna and Castor line.

Also proposed is a new line from Edmonton to the Heartland area near Fort Saskatchewan, twin lines from Edmonton to Fort McMurray, and a new substation in Calgary.

“It has a huge impact,” Wilson said.

These lines are massively overbilled and are unnecessary, Wilson said.

Wilson said a number of organizations and industries are concerned about Bill 50 in particular.

During his presentation, he tells of the Alberta Food Processing Association which estimates that 25 per cent of their businesses will close due to industrial power rates tripling. Somebody has to pay for these new transmission lines, Wilson said.

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com