Replacing Expropriation with Voluntary Exchange: A Property Rights Approach to Siting Facilities

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In this conference presentation, Elizabeth Brubaker questions whether development that relies on expropriation can ever be truly sustainable. She proposes a voluntary siting process in which developers acquire land or easements from willing sellers on the open market. Continue reading

Expropriation in Canada: Discretion Masquerading as Law

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Although expropriation is one of the most extreme uses of government power, Canadian governments have almost complete discretion over when they resort to it. Governments often justify this violation of their citizens’ property rights as being necessary to carry out public purposes. But expropriations that serve private interests, and those that are unnecessary, have become commonplace. Citizens have little recourse against arbitrary, unfair, and unjustified expropriations. This study by Elizabeth Brubaker provides an overview of federal and provincial expropriation laws. It examines the forums that give landowners only an illusion of meaningful participation in the expropriation process. It looks at a number of disputed expropriations, and at how the courts have grappled with them. And it suggests reforms to better balance the needs of governments with the rights of landowners. Continue reading

The Role of Property Rights in Protecting Water Quality (Revisited)

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A new book on water management features a chapter by Elizabeth Brubaker on the role of property rights in protecting water quality. L’eau entre réglementation et marché, published in France, looks at innovative approaches to managing water quantity and quality and explores market mechanisms that may be more effective and less costly than traditional regulations. Continue reading

Expropriation: Inescapably Necessary, or a Convenient Tool?

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In this conference presentation, Elizabeth Brubaker discusses the expropriation of Frank Meyers’s farm. The case calls attention to problems common in expropriation. The hearing process is a sham; alternatives to expropriation are not fully considered; and financial compensation cannot make everyone whole. Brubaker argues that expropriation should be allowed only when inescapably necessary in the interest of good government. Continue reading

Unfair, unsound, and unnecessary: A critical look at expropriation in Canada in 2013

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Those with the power to expropriate face few restrictions in Canada. Their objectives cannot be questioned. They need not demonstrate that their plans are viable. Nor are they bound by the findings of hearings into proposed projects. As a result, projects that are unfair, unsound, or unnecessary often go ahead. Continue reading

Stop expropriation abuse!

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Expropriation – the taking of land without the consent of the owner – is one of the most extreme uses of government power. It is not only a severe interference with private property rights but is also bad for the environment, the economy, and public morale. Expropriation is particularly repugnant when done for the benefit of private interests. Continue reading

Throne Speech promises polluter-pay system

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To protect local communities and the environment from oil spills and other risks, the federal government is promising to enshrine the polluter-pay system into law. It is also promising to increase the required liability insurance for companies operating offshore, pipeline operators, and railways. Continue reading

New liability limits for nuclear power and oil: Better, but not good enough

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In June, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver announced that the federal government will increase the liability limits for the operators of nuclear power plants and for oil companies drilling in Atlantic and Arctic waters. The minister explained that the changes are consistent with the polluter pays principle. But a government that is truly committed to the polluter pays principle would not simply raise caps on liability – it would remove them entirely. Continue reading

Expropriation Gone Awry: A Case Study

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In this conference presentation, Elizabeth Brubaker discusses the city of Toronto’s expropriation of six properties on the northeast corner of Yonge and Dundas in order to make way for a multi-screen cinema, restaurants, shops, and offices. Brubaker argues that forcibly taking land from private owners and re-selling it to private developers was an abuse of the city’s powers. She calls for an overhaul of the expropriation process to ensure that property is taken only for legitimate public uses and that landowners are treated fairly. Continue reading

EBI updates Citizens Guide

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EBI has updated a key section of its Citizens Guide to Environmental Investigation and Private Prosecution. The online guide now includes the latest provincial and federal objectives, guidelines, and standards for water quality, sediment quality, and soil quality. Continue reading

Environment Commissioner targets environmental liability limits

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Canada’s outgoing Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development has used his final report to Parliament to call attention to policies that limit the financial exposure of potential polluters. His recommendations to update liability limits don’t go far enough. Continue reading

Undue influence?

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A new Polaris Institute report documents a “staggering” rate of lobbying by Canada’s petroleum industry. Do environmentalists and other concerned citizens stand a chance? Continue reading

Power to the people

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Several recent surveys have revealed that Canadians distrust federal politicians, feel they have little in common with them, and doubt they are equipped to address important issues facing the country. These findings confirm the importance of Environment Probe’s work to empower individuals and communities. Continue reading

Take back the environment!

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In the last year, we have witnessed an unprecedented roll-back of environmental regulation across Canada. Federal and provincial governments alike have reduced their oversight of polluting industries and weakened citizens’ rights to protect themselves and their environment. The systematic weakening of environmental regulation has created a vacuum that needs to be filled. But we don’t simply need new regulations. We need a better process – one that returns environmental protection to affected citizens. Continue reading

Private insurance reduces environmental accidents

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The current edition of Regulation magazine has an interesting article about the role of legal liability in protecting the environment. The authors document the decline in leaks from underground fuel tanks when gas stations are required to carry private clean-up and liability insurance. The price structure for such insurance, they explain, “gives tank owners economic incentives to invest in equipment that reduces the chance of accidental fuel tank leaks.” Continue reading

Holding Frackers Accountable for Groundwater Pollution: An Analysis of Canada’s Liability Regimes for Hydraulic Fracturing

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This paper, by Adam Shedletzky, focuses on the legal provisions governing groundwater pollution due to fracking for shale gas. It examines the liability regimes (statutory and common-law) in Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta. It concludes with recommendations for strengthening the regulatory regime to enhance frackers’ incentives to take care and to ensure that those who are adversely affected by fracking can be “made whole.” Continue reading

Factory farms erode democratic rights

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In a new report examining the impacts of factory farming, the World Society for the Protection of Animals explains that right-to-farm laws have curtailed the rights of rural residents to be free of agricultural pollution. The authors bolster their arguments with quotes from Greener Pastures: Decentralizing the Regulation of Agricultural Pollution. Continue reading

Environmental assessments don’t protect the environment: Bruce Pardy

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Last week, as most environmentalists bemoaned the federal government’s decision to streamline environmental assessments, one expert shed no tears. Bruce Pardy, professor of environmental law at Queen’s University and member of Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal, told CBC Radio that “environmental assessment is not a great way to protect the environment.” Continue reading

Shale Gas in Canada: An Overview

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In this overview of shale gas in Canada, Manish Oza addresses basic questions about the location and volume of the resource, the environmental concerns associated with its extraction, and the regulatory regimes governing the industry. The paper is intended not to provide the last word on these issues but to help inform the still-early stages of the public policy discussion across the country. Continue reading