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Creating Accountability and Protecting Property Rights in the Alberta Land Stewardship Act

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Creating Accountability and Protecting Property Rights in the Alberta Land Stewardship Act

Trade & Transportation Provincial Policy

Trade & Transportation - Provincial Policy

Land Stewardship Act and Land-use Framework 

Released in December 2008, the Land-use Framework (LUF) sets out a comprehensive approach to managing the province’s land and natural resources. The Alberta Land Stewardship Act, legislation complementary to the policies outlined in the LUF, was brought into law in October 2009 and governs the establishment and implementation of regional plans. According to the Alberta government “... the purpose of its Land-use Framework (LUF) is to manage growth, not stop it, and to sustain our growing economy, but balance this with Albertans’ social and environmental goals.”1 

The Land-use Framework sought to establish this through seven strategies that would see the division of the province into seven regions for which regional land-use plans would be created. The plans would be developed in conjunction with Regional Advisory Committees (RACs), while the final decision on the regional plan would rest with cabinet. In order to implement this framework, the government developed the Alberta Land Stewardship Act (ALSA). The primary purposes of the ALSA are: “

  1. to provide a means by which the Government can give direction and provide leadership in identifying the objectives of the Province of Alberta, including economic, environmental and social objectives; 
  2. to provide a means to plan for the future, recognizing the need to manage activity to meet the reasonably foreseeable needs of current and future generations of Albertans, including aboriginal peoples; 
  3. to create legislation and policy that enable sustainable development by taking account of and responding to the cumulative effect of human endeavour and other events.”2 

Powers within the ALSA 

Various powers within the ALSA have brought forth major concerns regarding the impact that the legislation and, subsequently, the LUF itself, will have on the property rights of Albertans. Particularly problematic aspects of the legislation include; 

  1. The ability to extinguish statutory consents in order to implement a regional plan.3  
  2. The limitation of rights to compensations by reason of the act.4 
  3. The lack of constraint on the Lieutenant Governor in Council to abide by the advice of the Regional Advisory Councils.5 
  4. The lack of a comprehensive appeals process in regards to the implementation and development of regional plans. In the past two years since the inception of the Alberta Land Stewardship Act, increasing concern has arisen regarding the potential infringement of property rights. Strong property rights are essential for the functioning of a free market economy. 

Concerns include the assurance of the value of property in light of the powers granted by the ALSA to extinguish statutory consents, particularly without compensation. The ability to dissolve statutory consents without compensation undermines the value of the economic activities which these contracts enable. This will, in turn, result in increased difficulty in procuring finances for statutory consents given that they can be abolished with a simple, regulatory change. In addition, fear of losing access to land or statutory consents without adequate compensation will create a disincentive to purchase land and enter key industries (namely, agriculture). While, it is foreseeable that a regional plan may require statutory consents to be extinguished, it must be necessary for adequate compensation to be provided to the holders of such consents. 

Accountability with the creation and implementation of regional plans 

Because of the extensive powers enabled by the ALSA, it is necessary that the development of the regional plans, which ultimately dictate the use of those powers, is made to be accountable and responsible. As noted, while the RACs are mandated to advise cabinet, the ALSA explicitly states that the plans may be created whether or not a RAC has been appointed or submitted its recommendations6 The implementation of arbitrary regulations which have the extensive powers to dictate the property rights must be held accountable in order to protect businesses against the potential excessive and improper use of such powers. 

To this extent, a path for appeal must be established to ensure that: (a) the implementation of a regional plan is accountable and responsible to property owners, and (b) the regional plan itself is necessary and not excessive in its requirements on property owners and municipalities. In addition, in order to ensure that regional plans are not excessive, equal weighting and consideration of the economic, social, and environmental impacts of regional plans should be further enshrined within the ALSA. 


The Alberta Chamber of Commerce recommends that the Government of Alberta

  1. Ensure compulsory compensation for all action taken to implement a regional plan. 
  2. Establish a mechanism of independent and fair arbitration for situations where conflict exists regarding adequate value of compensation for statutory consents.
  3. Make membership on the Regional Advisory Committees (RACs) transparent and accountable, with equal representation from each of the three areas of consideration as outlined in section 1, subsection (a) of the ALSA; namely, economic, social, and environmental. 
  4. Create an appeal process for individuals who are affected by the implementation of a regional plan by permitting appeals to the Alberta Courts on the implementation of a regional plan. 
  5. Create an appeal process for municipal governments and Métis settlement councils to challenge the legitimacy of a regional plan itself.
  6. Prior to adopting any of the regional plans, conduct a thorough assessment of how any one plan may impact or interact with the plan of another region, and how all of the plans as a whole impact investment, development and competitiveness throughout the province of Alberta.


  1. Executive Summary, Government of Alberta, 2008, p. 2. 
  2. Section 1. Alberta Land Stewardship Act. 
  3. Section 11, Subsection 1. Alberta Land Stewardship Act. 
  4. Section 19, Subsection 1. Alberta Land Stewardship Act. 
  5. Section 5, Subsection 1. Alberta Land Stewardship Act. 
  6. Section 5, Subsection 1, Alberta Land Stewardship Act.
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