Property rights: the key to environmental protection

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In 1949, the Supreme Court of Canada ordered a pulp and paper company in Espanola, Ontario, to stop polluting downstream waters, ruling that the property rights of the affected fishermen, farmers, and tourist operators must be respected. The Ontario government immediately passed new legislation allowing the pulp mill to continue releasing chemicals. For good measure, the government—anticipating that the court might rule against the company—had several months earlier also changed the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act to encourage courts to allow pulp mill pollution.

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