Interview with Danielle Smith

Written by Jamie MacMaster

Can you give me some current examples from your province that demonstrate the present government is not working the way it should?

There's a long list. Now on the issue of property rights, this is an area where we've taken a massive turn in the wrong direction. We've had three bills that came through in the last legislative session. One is called Bill 50, it's the Electric Statutes Amendments Act. It allows the government to ram through transmission lines in areas without having to do a needs assessment. We brought through Bill 19 which is the Land Assembly Project Areas Act. It allows the government to freeze huge tracts of land for public uses without having to use the Expropriation Act, so landowners are worried about not getting proper compensation. And we've had Bill 36 - which to me is the most odious of them all - is the Land Stewardship Act. It allows the government to divide the province up into 7 regional planning areas and it gives the power to cabinet to decide what land uses will be permitted and what land uses will be prohibited on crown land and on private land. They can extinguish existing licenses permits, agreements and rights. This is now the highest law in the land. It overrides all other statutes and the courts are strictly forbidden from interfering with the cabinet decision. We haven't seen how it is going to be used yet but we've tried to do an assessment of whether or not this kind of planning tool had been used in any other western liberal democracy. I've got a lawyer who's been looking into these bills for me and he wasn't able to find any other precedent except for one place - in the Soviet Union

Landowners see the acquisition of effective property rights legislation as the best solution to stop expanding, intrusive governments. They feel that the land-use restrictions and much of the growth of government bureaucracies would slow down or stop if government had to pay for the land-use restrictions they are presently imposing at no cost. In other words, the best cure for government expansion would be effective property rights legislation. Do you agree?

Yes. When we started off the APRI, the main purpose of it was to advocate for an Alberta Property Rights Preservation Act. I've committed a long campaign trail that, Rule #1, would be an Alberta Property Rights Preservation Act for exactly the reasons you described. That once bureaucrats, once central planners have to make a decision, they know if they make a decision and it's going to impair property value, or lease value, then they have to be very careful about the extent to which they use that power. They will make sure they only use it when they absolutely have to because there will be a cost associated with it. Right now they don't have to be careful because they can make these kinds of decisions without any cost being associated to it. So the purpose of having a Bill like this is not only to protect the landowner interest to make sure they get fully compensated but it's also to make sure the minimal amount of land is being taken out of private use for public purposes. And I think you have to have this kind of legislation as a check on the power of the central planners.

Why do our federal and provincial Conservative parties stay silent on the property rights issue? Property rights appeared on Harper's campaign literature during his first election campaign, but couldn't be found anywhere during the last election. Thoughts?

My thinking would be that property rights are not a very well understood concept. In the U.S. there's an entire field of scholarship around the issues related to property rights. In Canada, property rights have been excluded from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and there is only a small and fairly weak reference to them in the Canadian Bill of Rights. I think what has happened is there has been an absence of scholarship around this issue.

To the best of my knowledge, you and Maxime Bernier have been the only politicians to raise concerns at the provincial or federal levels about the dangers of jumping on the global warming bandwagon. First of all, do you believe anthropogenic global warming is occurring, and second, what dangers do you associate with AGW-based legislation or international commitments?

I'm keeping an open mind on the science. I don't think that there is any consensus on the extent of the damage that is being caused, the speed with which it's being caused, the solutions for what can or cannot be done. Whether or not we should adapt, whether or not it's going to be too costly, so should we devote money to addressing more pressing environmental issues. There's a whole range of debate that is happening on this front, but it seems like there is a group that is trying to push a particular view that the effects are going to be catastrophic and they are going to be immediate, therefore we must act immediately. And I frankly think that that is an action that is going to cause an immense amount of disruption and harm to our economy.

On a related issue - the gun registry. In Ontario, police officers are knocking on hunters' doors and seizing firearms because the gun-owner has forgotten to renew his little possession card. Any comments on that from the perspective of the use of police resources?

The long-gun registry was a mistake, plain and simple. It is my understanding that an MP has introduced legislation to eliminate the long-gun registry. We would like to see a companion to that. The license should be turned into a perpetual license. So once you've been approved once, you don't have to continue getting approval. You can get it taken away from you, if you do something that is criminal that requires you to have your license suspended or removed. If we want to create a registry at all, let's create a registry of people who are too dangerous to own guns. This idea of having a registry so we can see how many law abiding citizens there are is ridiculous. Let's be honest, people who have a criminal intent don't show up with a license to get a gun. They're getting it on the black market and they're going to continue to. So we would be far better have having our police resources dedicated to going after those guys and going after gun-smuggling rings and leaving the farmers and ranchers alone.

For more information on the Alberta Property Rights Initiative, please visit

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