Ontario Government Proposes Easements on Private Property to Support Ontario Trails by Shirley Dolan

Published March 1, 2016
Shirley Dolan

Shirley Dolan

Historically, property owners and recreational organizations such as snowmobile clubs have negotiated deals whereby private property is used for the enjoyment of the members of that organization. Now the government wants to get involved! Bill 100, Supporting Ontario’s Trails Act was introduced to the legislature by the Hon. Michael Coteau, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport in May 2015. It is now in second reading where it will be debated. If it passes second reading, it will be referred to a Committee, and likely passed into law sometime this year. This Bill proposes to formalize agreements between property owners and recreational organizations through easements – easements that will be registered on title. That means that while you still own the property, use of the property will be controlled by the organization, and to a certain extent, by the government, through regulation.

Those who support the Bill are quick to point out that the property owner does not have to sign an agreement to allow an easement; they can continue with the owner / organization agreements. If this is the case, then what is the purpose of the Bill? It offers nothing for the landowner and everything to the “eligible body”, the organization that will control the easement. If there is nothing in the Bill for the landowner, then why would they want to sign an easement agreement?

It seems that this Bill was many years in the making. Yet many of us were taken by surprise when we learned about it. Many landowners, after having a look at the Bill, have chosen to close their trails and others have promised to do the same if the Bill is not withdrawn.

Section 12 of the Bill defines the easements. There is a list of the “eligible bodies” that may enter into the easement agreement with the landowner and these include conservation authorities, municipalities, aboriginal communities, a school board, a charitable foundation, and entities from the Unites States such as conservation land trusts. The Bill also states that the easement can be assigned to another eligible body, and there is nothing in the Bill to say that the owner has to be notified or considered when the easement is assigned.

Supporters of the Bill say it can be fixed in Committee. The Liberals hold a majority in all Committees; they introduced the Bill. What is the likelihood that the concerns of landowners will lead to real improvements before the Bill is passed? Once it has passed and an easement is signed, the owner could possibly end up in court should any disputes arise.

In a recent court decision, the Virginia Supreme Court sided with a small Virginia winery in a dispute with a high-powered national land trust regarding a conservation easement. The problem started when the vineyard decided to build a farm building to house a creamery, a bakery, and a tasting room on their 200-acre property. Environmentalists expressed concerns that the plans violated the conservation easement on the property, and the property owners were subsequently charged with 14 violations of the conservation easement. In the end, the court ruled overwhelmingly in favour of the winery, but not before years of litigation and financial burden. Too often, the Ontario Landowners Association has seen this type of scenario played out when government agencies seek to control private property through easements, designations, and policy statements. Even when the landowner wins in court, they still lose considerable time and money going through the process.

Some landowners are calling for the withdrawal of Bill 100 and the Ontario Landowners Association agrees that it should be withdrawn.

3 Responses to “Ontario Government Proposes Easements on Private Property to Support Ontario Trails by Shirley Dolan”

  1. Delmer O. B. Martin March 8, 2016

    After some difficulty I decided a few years ago to no longer allow “the club” members to cross my land to access/ join up with two of the main Ontario trails…I have always cherished my private property however when I originally said no, political correctness was used against me and I am ashamed to admit that I gave in at the time, however it is not too late because I have just finished making a new decision that unless I get some considerable specific benefits from being subjected to the political correctness against my private property I will disallow any public access to my private property! Truth is I have learned that my private property rights are more important to me than being considered to be politically correct!!! Frankly when one is the actual owner of valuable property, one needs to be very scared of ANYONE else’s potential of a future “implied contract” Will the politicians actually fix anything on all the citizens behalf when all the main parties in most all countries in the whole world serve (are controlled by) the elite? I think NOT, and furthermore in our democracy 51% can make slaves out of the other 49% For those of us that own our own property and do not covet anyone else’s we absolutely deserve to be left alone…to be free!!!

  2. Jeff March 2, 2016
  3. Grace Joubarne March 1, 2016

    Someone needs to start a formal Petition and get it out there for people to gather signatures…at every meeting of OLA, etc. There is no reason we cannot get thousands of signatures in a couple of months….Jack MacLaren or another helpful MPP, I am certain, would be happy to present that petition. (By the way, a little known fact is that the petition wording must be on every signature sheet, not just the first one as most Petitions are done).

    Rebel.ca and Ezra Levant et al should be raising the roof on this blatant theft of property… Of course, so should mainstream media, but we all know they will not run anything negative about the Ontario queen of fascism.

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