When Jack Hayden brought the Project Area Act, “Bill 19”, to the Alberta legislature in March, it sparked a firestorm of controversy across the province’s communities from concerned landowners.
Bill 19, proposed on March 2 by Drumheller-Stettler MLA and Minister of Infrastructure Jack Hayden, would enable the government to designate private land for major infrastructure projects and to regulate future development within a project area, with the understanding the land will ultimately be purchased by the province.But according to Joe Anglin, leader of the Alberta Green Party, the bill is a “draconian attempt to streamline the expropriation process of private property under the guise of acquiring land for Utility Corridors.”Joe Anglin will bring his argument to the Rockyford Community Centre on Thursday, April 16 to shed light on what Bill 19 means to local landowners. In an open letter to Albertans dated March 12, Hayden had said the purpose of Bill 19 is to ensure there are “no surprises when government is considering acquiring land for major infrastructure projects.”Hayden goes on to write the legislation improves the process by making advance consultation with landowners mandatory, and if a takeover is approved by the Minister under the Lieutenant Governor in Council, Alberta will pay landowners fair market value for the acquisition of land. “Bill 19 does not remove any protection landowners currently have to ensure they receive fair compensation,” when acquiring land, Hayden writes.If Bill 19 is passed in its current form, which has only passed the first of three readings, any cabinet minister can design and plan a project, apply as the applicant for approval of the project, adjudicate the approval process of their own project, and enforce their own decision.Bill 19 states if one or more areas are required for a project, the Lieutenant Governor in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister, may designate an area for the purposes of transportation of goods or people, pipelines, conduits, for the use of water conservation or management, or any project designated as a public project.If landowners and the provincial government don’t agree on a fair price, a third party consultation will take place to determine an appropriate value of targeted land.According to Bill 19, if a person contravenes regulation of the bill, the Minister may create an enforcement order to “direct a person to stop doing something, or to change the way in which the person is doing it,” remove or demolish erected structures and restore land to original condition. If an enforcement order is not followed, “the Minister may take whatever action or measures the Minister considers necessary to carry out the terms of the enforcement order,” and costs for the order shall be paid by that person.Breaking an enforcement order may cost landowners a fine of no more than $100,000 or imprisonment for two or less years.“Bill 19 bestows to any Minister absolute, undemocratic power, rule by decree and/or regulation, and most notably removes from the existing legislation… ‘necessary in the public interest’. The potential to abuse this much power is terrifying,” says Donna Wise, a grain farm owner and coordinator for the upcoming meeting in Rockyford.“The consequences of Bill 19 is not just a slap in the face to the 100 years that my family have been proud Albertans, Bill 19 is a threat to my grandsons’ future,” Hayes says of the bill, stressing the urgency for all Albertans to learn the facts behind Bill 19.A copy of Bill 19, questions and answers, and releases about the legislation are available to the public on Alberta Infrastructure’s website, www.infrastructure.alberta.ca.All concerned Albertans are invited to attend public hearings with speaker Joe Anglin in Innisfail at the Seniors Drop-in Centre on Wednesday, April 15 at 7:30, or at the Rockyford Community Centre, also at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 16.