Frontier Centre Releases Canadian Property Rights Index 

In the last four years property right protections in Canada have been going downhill, erasing all gains made since recording began in 2007. This decline in property rights protection is a pressing issue that can seriously affect economic growth and individual liberty.

Inspired by the International Property Rights Index the Canadian Frontier Centre for Public Policy has released the 10th edition of its Canadian Property Rights Index documenting in detail the state of property rights across provinces and territories. Written by Joseph Quesnel and David Leis, the index finds several factors have contributed to this decline, including increased government regulation, the expansion of eminent domain, and the growth of civil forfeiture laws.

Here are some excerpts from the Canadian Property Rights Index:

“In British Columbia—despite its high ranking in other areas—there is a serious underlying problem with the so-called Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), which preserves land for agricultural uses and restricts all other uses. This restriction most certainly has tightened the supply of land available for housing in that province. The ALR—if left alone—will affect BC’s rankings on regulatory takings in the future.”

“The problem with civil forfeiture regimes is they often do adversely affect third parties who become entangled in its proceedings. One B.C.-based criminal defense counsel wrote, “Civil forfeiture threatens to be employed in situations where the connection between the crime and the property is tenuous, disproportionate (meaning the asset is used only occasionally or in small part for the commission of crime), or where the state wants to get back at individuals it isn’t able to convict in a criminal court.”

“The main concerns were over the “Shoot, Shovel and Shut Up” incentive created by the legislation.12 If the landowner reveals that an endangered species exists on his or her land, then the value of that land may fall, often dramatically, because the uses to which the land could be put are reduced. Keeping that information to yourself then reduces the risk of a loss in value, thus landowners have an incentive to remove or kill endangered species on their land or purposely render the land habitat unsuitable for these species before they are discovered.”

Government regulation has grown recently, leading to land use, zoning, and environmental protection restrictions. These regulations not only limit individuals’ use of their property but can also devalue it, making property rights less secure. As a result, property owners face more significant challenges and uncertainties in exercising their rights over their land.

Moreover, the expansion of eminent domain has further weakened property rights protections. While the government has the power to take private property for public use, recent trends show an increased frequency of this practice, often leaving property owners with limited options to challenge such takings. Property owners’ autonomy diminished over their assets, undermining the fundamental principles of property rights.

Civil forfeiture laws have also played a significant role in declining property rights protections. These laws enable the government to seize property suspected of being used in criminal activity without necessarily charging the owner with a crime. This can result in unjust confiscation and difficulties for property owners seeking to reclaim their seized assets, leading to a lack of trust in the fairness and integrity of the system.

The consequences of weakened property rights protections are multifaceted and far-reaching.

First: It hampers economic growth by deterring investment and entrepreneurial activities. Businesses are less likely to invest in an environment where property rights are uncertain, leading to slower economic progress and reduced job opportunities.

Second: A decline in property rights can fuel social unrest. Dissatisfaction with the government’s failure to protect property rights can lead to civil disobedience and protests, causing societal instability. Restricted property rights strain social cohesion and hinder progress toward common goals.

Third: Individual liberty is at risk when property rights are not adequately protected. Strong property rights allow people to use their property as they wish. However, when these rights are compromised, the government gains more control over property use, potentially limiting individual freedoms and creating a power imbalance.

Other elements, such as heavy-handed supposedly “green” regulations, the influence of special interests, and the growth of the size of government have also contributed to the decline in property rights protections. Addressing this complex issue requires a comprehensive approach and ongoing commitment to safeguarding property rights for the benefit of all Canadians.

The CPRI serves as a vital tool for policymakers, businesses, and individuals to understand the current state of property rights and identify areas that need improvement to preserve the integrity and importance of property rights in Canada.

Find the full Canadian Property Rights Index here.