Madam Speaker, first of all, I would like to thank the members of Parliament who have participated in the debate on Bill C-222. Property rights are important to Canadians. Home ownership and property rights go hand in hand. One needs look no further than the recent surge in home ownership since the start of the pandemic to see that owning property is a priority for average Canadians.
In Canada, real estate transactions are up over the previous year. There is a record high demand and short supply. For 2020 as a whole, over half a million homes traded hands over the Canadian multiple listing service systems, which is a new annual record. Home ownership remains a goal for a great many Canadians. Buying a home will be the single largest purchase many will make in their lifetimes. Property rights protect their investment.
There has been a disturbing trend in Canada toward what is referred to as regulatory or constructive taking of property. This happens when a government uses its statutory powers to regulate or restrict the property rights of an owner without acquiring the title to the land being adversely affected. The ownership of private property is not constitutionally protected in Canada. The Crown can take private land, either an entire parcel, an estate or interest in a parcel, such as an easement, for the public good. This is called expropriation.
It is a general principle of expropriation law that the Crown must compensate landowners when it takes their land, although, in reality, this does not always occur. While the act provides some procedural protections for private landowners during the expropriation process, they are not absolute. In particular, the government can shorten the 90-day notice period alerting landowners to the Crown's intention to expropriate, dispense with the requirement for a public hearing into objections raised by landowners and take physical possession of the land before an offer of compensation is offered.
To do so, the government must believe that the land is urgently required due to special circumstances. The act does not explain what is meant by urgent or special circumstances, so Bill C-222 would clarify that restoring natural habitat and addressing the consequences of climate variability do not constitute those special circumstances. Bill C-222 recognizes that expropriation may be desired for these purposes, but that due process must be followed. Private landowners should not be forced to give up their land without at least a 90-day notice, a public hearing if they object to the expropriation and an offer of compensation.
Since I introduced Bill C-222, I have been made aware of too many examples of individuals being mistreated when it came to property rights. Long-time property rights activist, Ontario turkey farmer David Core, has been involved in private property rights for years, having been the president of the Canadian Association of Energy and Pipeline Landowner Associations. He recently made this observation in the Pipeline Observer, “I began to see that a healthy respect for property rights was the missing link — the real key to securing personal liberty, economic prosperity and environmental protection for all Canadians.”
Nobel Prize-winning economist Friedrich Hayek once said that the power a multi-millionaire might have over an individual and their property, whether they are a neighbour or an employer, is very much less than what is held by the smallest government bureaucrat or agent, who wields coercive power of the state, and upon whose discretion it depends whether and how one is able to live, work or make decisions.
With this legislation, my goal is to protect the private property rights of average Canadians. Climate change is not the subject of this amendment to the Expropriation Act. In fact, this legislation has the effect of recognizing climate change. This bill in no way inhibits the federal government from responding to a climate emergency. What it would do is provide legal recourse for private property owners who are adversely affected by any such actions.
I ask members to please support property rights and send Bill C-222 to committee for further study.