Expropriation in the news: The private projects edition

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This sampling of stories covered by the media in 2014 provides an overview of expropriations undertaken for the benefit of private companies in Ontario. It describes the taking of land for a private transmission line, residential and commercial real estate developments, industrial parks, and an auto plant. Continue reading

Expropriation in the news: The public projects edition

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This sampling of stories covered by the media in 2014 provides an overview of expropriations for roads, sewers, and other public purposes. Despite the public nature of the projects, many of the takings raise troubling questions about the process. Continue reading

Corporate bullying: Expropriating for private purposes in Nova Scotia

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Nova Scotia’s Expropriation Act authorizes the taking of private land for public works and other public purposes. But expropriation in the province increasingly serves private purposes, helping international resource development companies acquire land at reduced prices. This article by Elizabeth Brubaker reviews recent expropriations for three private projects – the Black Point Aggregate Quarry, the Touquoy Gold Mine, and the Maritime Link Transmission Project. Continue reading

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

Ontario’s drinking water report: Great news, or a sober warning?

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Ontario’s Chief Drinking Water Inspector boasts, “Our strong and consistent performance is great news.” But 35 percent of Ontario’s municipal systems failed at least one water quality test in the last year. Forty percent failed to obtain perfect facility inspection ratings. And 58 percent experienced “adverse water quality incidents.” Such results suggest that Ontario’s municipal systems need work, not praise. 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

Outsourcing: What Makes a Private Water Contract Work?

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For this article in Municipal Water and Sewer Magazine, Peter Kenter interviewed three proponents of private water services, including Environment Probe’s Elizabeth Brubaker, about the features of a well-designed contract. 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

P3 progress report: Momentum building for water and wastewater partnerships

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Recent months have seen several encouraging developments on the water and wastewater front: Saint John, New Brunswick, has decided to seek a private partner to design, build, and finance a new water treatment plant and to operate and maintain it for 30 years; Regina, Saskatchewan, is planning to use a 30-year public-private partnership (P3) to upgrade its aging sewage treatment plant; a federal standing committee has released a report on the effectiveness of P3s in the delivery of public infrastructure; and PPP Canada has released a study on the suitability of P3s for water and wastewater projects. Continue reading

Corrupt water

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Last week’s boil-water advisory in Montreal called attention to a system plagued by under-investment, poor repair, and shaky management. Would privatization – under strict regulation – create a more effective and efficient system? 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

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

Canadians must start paying more for water: Conference Board

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In its report card on Canada’s environmental performance, the Conference Board of Canada assigns a “C” for water withdrawals, ranking the country 15 out of 16 in the developed world. It attributes Canada’s excessive withdrawals in part to “water pricing that does not promote efficiency.” Continue reading

Pricing missing from Ontario water strategy

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In its new Water Sector Strategy, Ontario aims to promote public-private partnerships for water infrastructure, encourage alternative financing models, nurture the water technology sector, and increase water conservation. But the Strategy is missing a key piece of the puzzle: full-cost pricing. Continue reading

Minister Bradley take note: We can’t be complacent

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West Elgin’s mayor warned against complacency after discovering incompetence and deceit in his municipality’s water distribution system. Ontario’s environment minister should heed the mayor’s warning. Continue reading