Thursday, February 24, 2011

Property Rights

If trudeau had been a real believer in democracy he would have entrenched property rights in our constitution, but he gave in to the ndp. I am always wary of reopening the constitutional can of worms, but I do support property rights. It is a fundamental right. I would argue it is already there, considering a millennium, of jurisprudence, but given the so called charter of rights and freedoms we should entrench property rights as well.

On February 24, federal MP Scott Reid and Ontario MPP Randy Hillier held a joint press conference to promote the protection of a basic human right: the right to property. The two politicians will be introducing resolutions in their respective legislatures which would entrench constitutional protection to property rights in Ontario – and hopefully spark a move to enact similar protection in the rest of Canada as well.

Mssrs. Reid and Hillier’s effort was inspired by several recent cases, including one well-publicized matter involving the municipality of Clarington, Ontario. In 2010 the town wanted to fine the local Jaworski family $50,000 for holding a weekend student retreat on their rural property; the charges were only recently dropped after the family incurred substantial legal bills. The MPs also cited the case of a woman in Lanark County, Ontario, who wanted to refinance her property by dividing it and selling off one portion. Due to the presence of a protected bird species, she was legally prevented from doing so, couldn’t raise the capital she needed, and lost her land.

Had the Charter included a right to property, these individuals could have possibly launched a constitutional challenge to these laws and charges – or governments might have never imposed them in the first place. The absence of a constitutional protection for property rights means that municipalities and provinces can run roughshod over property rights without fear of reprisal. They can impose Heritage Building designations, declare land to be part of a Greenbelt, or deny citizens building permits to modify their homes, all with impunity.

Why are property rights not part of our Constitution? Thank the provinces and the federal NDP. In 1978, when drafting its proposal for the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the federal Liberal government of Pierre Elliott Trudeau included a guarantee to

the right of the individual to the use and enjoyment of property, and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with law.

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