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July 27, 2009
Expropriating for Economic Development: A Carte Blanche for Municipal Mismanagement
Canadians who live in provinces where expropriation is allowed for economic development face the danger of municipal abuse.
• One family, the Fouillards of Manitoba, serves as an example of a family that had a portion of its property expropriated for a tourism venture.
• The Rural Municipality of Ellice and the Town of St-Lazare have not made their intentions clear to the Fouillards. They have also entered into discussions with third parties to develop the property.
• The problems started in 1997 when the Conservative government of Manitoba allowed expropriation for economic development purposes.
• Prominent organizations that represent the vast majority of rural landowners, such as the Keystone Agricultural Producers and the Manitoba Cattle Producers Association, are greatly concerned about the potential abuse of this kind of expropriation in all rural communities.
• Prominent U.S. justices have noticed the great potential for abuse with these expropriations, noting that they can be very arbitrary and susceptible to local politics.
• While some provinces have taken note of these abuses, several U.S. states have already enacted legislation protecting individual landowners from these kinds of expropriations. Canadian provinces are lagging behind.
• While the preference is to remove economic development as a legal ground, at the very minimum, clear procedural safeguards should be in place to protect property owners.
• There should be more independent oversight of the process, with the possibility of a third-party review panel.
• Provincial legislators should also draft a landowner’s bill of rights that can be used against governments. Consideration should also be given to the idea of requiring a good faith effort on the part of municipalities to seriously consider the independent inquiry report into the attempted expropriation.
• All provincial governments should include clauses in their municipal expropriation legislation that specify what may and may not be expropriated. This would limit the scope of the legislation.
• Instead of becoming directly involved in businesses, municipalities can better assist community economic development by focusing on broad-based tax relief for all businesses, and they should work with higher levels of government in improving the training and education of the local workforce.View as PDF (16 pages)
is a policy analyst at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy who focuses on aboriginal matters and property rights. Based in Lethbridge, Alberta, he is from the Sudbury region of Northern Ontario, and has Metis ancestry from Quebec. He graduated from McGill University in 2001, majoring in political science and history. He specialized in Canadian and American politics, with an emphasis on constitutional law. He is completing a master of journalism degree at Carleton University, where he is specializing in political reporting. For two years, he covered House standing committees, as well as Senate committees. His career in journalism includes several stints at community newspapers in Northern Ontario, including Sudbury and Espanola. He also completed internships at CFRA 580 AM, a talk radio station in Ottawa and the Cable Public Affairs Channel. He writes a weekly column in the Winnipeg Sun and contributes to the Taxpayer, the flagship publication of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. Quesnel's policy commentaries have appeared in the Lethbridge Herald, Vancouver Sun, Globe and Mail, Financial Post, and the National Post, among others.