By Brian Lilley, London Free Press
OTTAWA – A pair of Ontario politicians are hoping to change Canada’s Constitution to insert property rights into the Charter of Rights and Freedom.
Property rights were traditionally held to be part of common law and included in the bill of rights introduced by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker in 1960.
“The bill of rights is a federal statute that does not impose restrictions on the provinces or municipalities,” Conservative MP Scott Reid told QMI Agency. “Most of the intrusions on property rights are from provincial or municipal governments,” Reid said.
Property rights were not explicitly laid out as deserving of protection in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms brought in by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in 1982. Unlike Diefenbaker’s bill of rights, the Charter applies to provincial and municipal laws.
Ontario PC MPP Randy Hillier acknowledges once upon a time courts in Canada recognized property rights through the common law but he said recent judgments have diminished those rights.
“Constitutional law is the highest form of law, it governs all others,” Hillier said, explaining why he wants the Constitution amended.
The amendment he is proposing would only apply to Ontario, making the idea much easier to pass. Any amendment that affects the entire country needs the support of seven provinces representing more than 50% of the population.
A Constitutional amendment affecting only one province simply needs approval of the provincial legislature and the consent of Parliament.
Hillier points to land use designations – rules for how certain parcels of land can be used – as an example of municipal and provincial regulations, which infringe on property rights. If a municipal council changes the land use designation of a parcel of land it can affect the ability of the owner to use, sell or develop the land. But there is no requirement to compensate landowners for changing the rules of the game.
Hillier and Reid liken such rule changes to the government expropriating land without paying the landowner.
The two men will unveil their proposed amendment at a news conference at Queen’s Park on Thursday afternoon.