must not tolerate land grabs, without fair compensation.
Dalton McGuinty's land grab
November 2, 2004
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is perpetrating an injustice by
introducing legislation that will ban future development of 1.8
million acres of private land without offering the property owners
anything in return. While staking out more green space is a
reasonable government objective, the failure to compensate
landowners for the resulting losses is unacceptable.
According to Mr. McGuinty, the goal of the scheme is "to build a
legacy for our children, one that includes protecting thousands of
acres of prime farmland so farmers can prosper, preserving our
watersheds, rivers and forests to protect the water we drink and the
air we breathe." But he offers no rationale for imposing the entire
cost of this "legacy" on one group of unfortunate landowners. If the
project is as dear as Mr. McGuinty says, and the benefits as widely
shared, he should be willing to pay fair value for it.
PROPERTY RIGHTS FORM THE VERY
BASIS OF A FREE AND DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY
Indeed, many of the very farmers Mr. McGuinty is purporting to
help will be among the hardest hit. The land under their feet will
become less valuable and their ability to acquire mortgage financing
will decline accordingly. As Ontario Federation of Agriculture
president Ron Bennett has explained: "Their retirement program has
been swept out from under them."
Though we would be happy to see Mr. McGuinty simply compensate
property owners for their losses, an even better option would be to
follow the lead of The Nature Conservancy, an environmental charity
that protects natural habitats in both Canada and the United States
by engaging in private, voluntary transactions -- from outright
purchases to easements -- with landowners. The result is meaningful
conservation without coercive landgrabbing.
For all Canadians, not just Ontarians, there is an important
principle at stake here. Property rights -- people's freedom to use
the things they own in whatever way they choose so long as they
don't infringe on the rights of others -- form the very basis of a
free and democratic society. And as the United States Supreme Court
emphasized in its 1917 Buchanan v. Warley decision: "Property is
more than the thing which a person owns. It is elementary that it
includes the right to acquire, use and dispose of it."
We realize that the province of Ontario is not legally obligated
to compensate the landowners whose property use it is restricting:
No doubt, Mr. McGuinty has been emboldened by the lamentable failure
of Canada's Constitution to enshrine citizens' property rights. But
the omission should not be mistaken for a sign that the government's
licence to exploit landowners will be tolerated -- either by those
affected, or by voters at large.
© National Post 2004