Madam Speaker, it is my privilege today to speak to Bill C-222, a private member's bill by the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, an area that I know very well from my multiple years in Petawawa during my time in the military.
As previous speakers have highlighted, Canada does not have an inherent constitutional protection for private property. It is only done through the Expropriation Act at the federal level.
I fully acknowledge, as a former member of the Canadian Armed Forces and having served on bases in Gagetown and even having Meaford in my riding, that there are unique circumstances where expropriation is necessary. However, at all times, we need to pay fair market compensation to those owners. In my view, this bill simply does that. It intends to provide some clarity and protection for private property owners.
I am sure that my riding of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound is very similar to a lot of rural ridings across Canada, where constituents have been living on some properties and farms held through generations. Unfortunately in some cases, these properties are the only things of substantial value, both personally and financially, for these Canadians. They are some of the most hard-working, honest and proud Canadians our nation produces. I have personally met many of them since deciding to get involved in federal politics. They have lots of concerns, and not just at the federal level but at all levels of government, with having their private property appropriately protected. It is really all they have.
That consistent message that I keep hearing from them, time and time again, is one of anxiety, concern and a lack of trust in governments. When their way of living is solely based on their property, whether it is farming or running a small business, it seems that every year there are more regulations, regardless of the level of government bringing them in and constantly challenging or limiting their way of making a living. In my view, in these circumstances, it is very easy to understand why these private property owners are frustrated.
Why is providing some level of clarity and certainty to these private property owners a bad thing? I know that previous speakers on this who may not be supporting this bill have noted the inadequate protection, and also that in some provinces there may be protection under either civil or common law. As well, they were asking for specific examples of where the bill may be appropriate.
I do not have a specific example, but I can mention some very similar situations. To go back to a previous speaker in the first hour of debate in November, the member for Red Deer—Mountain View said that we are seeing a “disturbing trend in Canada toward what is referred to as regulatory, de facto or constructive taking of private property.”
This happens when governments use those statutory powers to regulate or restrict the property rights of an owner without acquiring the title to the land that is being adversely affected. The landowner feels the impact of these regulations as if the land had been expropriated. Put another way, the government can strictly regulate the land, and limit its value and what a landowner can do with it, without triggering procedures in the legislation.
Let us go to specific examples in my riding where a comparison could be made. In one case I have a farmer whose land has not been expropriated yet, but who has been restricted in what he is allowed to do on his family farm due to its proximity to the watershed. There has been no history or circumstances where that farming operation has ever interfered with the watershed. There has been no run-off or problems historically.
The farmer accepted that. He had no problem and accepted that they had to change their way of doing business. However, when they then tried to utilize or take the private property and use it for a different business endeavour that would not compromise the environment or have any environmental concerns, they were informed that they could not do that either because the farm was agricultural land.
Again, it is the issue of the lack of certainty and clarity that private property owners are looking for because, again, what they can do to make a living and get by has been restricted by these regulatory changes. As such, these de facto or regulatory takings of property mean that the property owners are not entitled to compensation.
I know that one of the previous speakers indicated there is another method where they could raise this through a lower court at the provincial level. However, what this bill does is it just provides a little greater clarity.
One of the previous speakers this evening spoke about the requirement that a government, especially at the federal level, may be required to talk about defence, public safety and climate emergencies, and not hindering the government's ability for expropriation and cutting back the need for due process.
At the same time, that speaker indicated there has not been an example in the last 30 years where this has actually occurred. To counter that, my question is, if this has never actually occurred in an emergency, why are we worrying about it? Putting in the extra level of clarity and due process that Bill C-222 asks for is a good thing.
I admit that, as with any piece of legislation, this bill has room for improvement. All members of the House can support this bill and let it go to committee where those amendments could make this bill better and adequately protect the rights of our private property owners.
In my view, this bill is simple. It seeks to remove the uncertainty from the existing legislation by allowing due process to be followed. Private property owners should not be forced to give up their land without notice, without hearing and without fair compensation. Canadians deserve clarity, certainty and fair compensation. Bill C-222 would help achieve this.