Will there be more respect for property rights in 2018? By Shirley Dolan

Shirley Dolan
Shirley Dolan

Ontario Landowners have been around in one form or another for more than 17 years. What started out as protests against regulations and legislation affecting rural residents and businesses has become an active group of advocates for property rights whether you live in urban, suburban, or rural Ontario. Organizing under the umbrella of the Ontario Landowners Association (OLA) in 2006, the various county groups continue to champion the rights of property owners.

In recent years, the OLA has been supported by our Researcher, Elizabeth Marshall, who has arguably spent more hours than anyone else reading and analyzing legislation and regulations, Bills that are tabled in the legislature, contracts, and other government documents. She has
written extensively on property rights issues and stated repeatedly that governments are not reading their own laws, nor are they following them.

Rather, our provincial government and our municipalities seem to have embraced an “agenda” which surreptitiously “steals” property from its citizens by restricting our plans to use our land. And one of the tools they are using is the Official Plan. According to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs website, official plans and planning policies are to guide future development. Nowhere does it say that land use on private property should be controlled. An article written by Michael Polowin, a lawyer with Gowlings, states that “many, if not most official plans across Ontario contain elements that are not consistent with the law, either in the form of decided case law, or on a plain reading of the Planning Act”. Increasingly, official plans are being used to designate large geographical areas as natural heritage systems, which includes valley lands, woodlands, wetlands, fish habitat, and on and on! These areas include private property. Once designated, the municipality then restricts what a property owner can do on their land. Some restrictions are even being spelled out in official plans.

For many years now, municipalities have quietly passed their official plans with hardly a peep from the public. There was a time when most people did not know what an official plan was and how it might affect them. But this has changed. This year has seen an increased awareness
among property owners on how official plans can interfere with their use and enjoyment of their land.

Property owners are voicing their objections in a very effective way and municipalities do not like it. Whereas they relied on an “implied consent” model in the past (if you don’t register your objection to a designation on your property, then it is assumed that you agree with it), municipal councils are now having to explain why on earth we need such classifications and why proper public consultation is not being done prior to releasing the proposals. The development of such designations appears to be mostly done by planners and environmentalists without input from those most affected: the property owner. Landowners have been good stewards of the land for hundreds of years. What has changed and why do we now have to be told how to manage our properties?

The OLA believes that municipalities do not have the authority to designate or plan for private property without the consent of the landowner. This position is soundly rejected whenever it is presented to municipalities. And so, the rhetoric will go, round and round, until perhaps the two opposing views end up in court and a decision is issued.

The point should be though, that regardless of the municipalities’ belief in their authority, it is not right, and councils should start paying more attention to what their constituents want instead of what they think the province wants.

Tom Black, President of the OLA says that what is needed in Ontario is a tone change when it comes to respect for private property rights. I couldn’t agree more.

In Ontario, we will have a Provincial election on June 7 th and municipal elections coming in October. We have an opportunity to make Ontario a better place to live.

Get informed! Get involved! Help us change the tone in 2018!