Rural landowners expressing views to task force

Rural landowners have turned out in droves to ask that the province delete four bills that they believe threaten their ability to live their lives and run their farms.

Rural landowners have turned out in droves to ask that the province delete four bills that they believe threaten their ability to live their lives and run their farms.

Alberta Premier Alison Redford has struck a task force, chaired by Environment and Water Minister Diana McQueen, to investigate how people interpret their rights as property owners and where the government needs to amend its policies and laws.

McQueen took the Property Rights Task Force on the road last week, visiting property owners in six communities throughout the province, including Olds and Rocky Mountain House on Wednesday. The tour is to stop in four more communities on Monday and Tuesday.

It’s a no-brainer for people like Innisfail-area cattle producer Don Bester, president of the Alberta Surface Rights Group.

Bester joined more than 200 people who attended the Olds meeting in the afternoon and then joined another 100 or so at Rocky during the evening.

He said they’re asking for one thing: Get rid of Bills 19, 24, 36 and 50, which directly affect property rights, or face the consequences during the provincial election expected this spring.

The four bills, which were all passed into law in recent sessions of former premier Ed Stelmach’s government, affect the processes through which the province acquires land for major projects, carbon sequestration to offset greenhouse gases, construction of new power lines and decisions on land use.

Bill 24, which covers carbon sequestration, is especially contentious now because of perceived threats of storing carbon dioxide in deep formations, said Bester.

McQueen said on Friday that Bester’s concerns were a common thread at all six meetings, but it’s too early to make any decisions on their comments.

What she has heard so far is that people seek more public consultation and more access to the courts when decisions are to be made on projects that affect their properties.

A report with recommendations is to be generated and made public by the end of the month, based in part on the public meetings and on a survey now underway.

Those interested in having their opinions included have until Jan. 23 to complete the survey, available online at www.environment.alberta.ca or by calling McQueen’s Edmonton office, 403-426-2391.

Copies of the survey are also available through members of the legislature.

bkossowan@bprda.wpengine.com

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