The Ontario Landowners Association – who we are and what we do? by Shirley Dolan

Published August 1, 2018
Shirley Dolan

Shirley Dolan

Ontario Landowners Association (OLA) president Tom Black has commented on occasion that if governments had respect for private property and property owners and acted accordingly, we would have no need of the OLA. So, who are we and why do we continue to devote many volunteer hours every day to the property rights advocacy cause? Well, for one thing, for 15 years or more, we have not seen a glimmer of that respect that we are looking for.

Organizationally, the OLA is like the “head office” for the Landowner movement, which started out in Lanark County as a group of farmers and property owners banding together to try to get the Provincial government to work with rather than against us. The OLA was founded in December 2005 by delegates from twelve pre-existing landowner groups representing different rural areas of the province. The groups had already been cooperating closely, and for the most part, the activities of the OLA were modeled on the Lanark Landowners Association, which had been conducting demonstrations and other activities since early 2003.

Since its initiation, the OLA has operated with an Executive Council which consists of a president, vice-president, and five governors plus a treasurer and secretary. The executive is supported by our Director of Research, Elizabeth Marshall. The Board of Directors for the OLA comprises a representative from each county group, generally the President of that group. The Board of Directors and the OLA Executive Council meet formally in the Spring and Fall. At the Fall meeting, elections are held for the president, vice president, and governors. The treasurer and secretary are appointed by the Executive Council. Each county group will hold their own elections and meetings.

Perhaps our most important work is and has been our efforts to “educate the public” and to “aid landowners who are being affected by or harmed by government actions”.

How do we do this? Well, when we started, we had rallies to draw attention to property rights infringements by governments. We drove tractors down the 401 in support of tobacco farmers on one of the coldest days of the winter, protested at Queens Park with more than 100 landowners, brought our message and tractors to Parliament Hill more than once, closed down a Ministry of Natural Resources building for the morning and sold meat to hundreds of people from miles around, all as a backdrop for spreading the word about governments and their excessive legislation and over-regulation.

Later on, our researcher, Elizabeth Marshall, spent countless hours reading legislation, regulations and court cases which clearly demonstrated that governments are over-stepping their authority and even, at times, appear to be in contravention of our Constitution. From this research came strong support and recommendations for property owners to obtain their Crown Land Patents and do a title search to ensure that what they thought they owned was indeed what they did own. This was all part of a movement by the OLA to show that we do have property rights.

County groups hold public meetings across Ontario where landowners can meet, learn about, and talk about the right to own, enjoy, and profit from their land.

We attend plowing matches, fall fairs, farm shows, and other events and we come armed with brochures, Back off Government signs, and a host to volunteers to staff the booth and share information.

Many of us attend municipal council and committee meetings to see what the next bad thing is coming down the road to restrict our property rights – whether its property standards or a site alteration by-law, or a new designation to take our rights away. We look at legislation and regulation through a property rights lens and pass on our findings to our membership. We alert our membership to public consultation meetings about by-laws and designations that may affect them and we speak out at these meetings.

Several years ago, we set up a website www.ontariolandowners.ca where readers can find information about property rights, buy a membership, make a donation, and learn about the OLA. We now have a FREE enewsletter that is emailed to subscribers’ inboxes on the first of the month (provide your name and email address on our website to subscribe), and we are on Facebook – website, newsletter and Facebook all managed by volunteers.

No article about the OLA would be complete without a word about our litigation activities. In 2013, after hearing countless stories from pet owners and farmers about unfair treatment by the OSPCA, we decided to initiate a charter challenge of the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) Act, an Act which allows a charitable organization with no oversight to seize animals, board them and bill the owners, and even destroy their animals,  before charges are proven in court.  The application was submitted in 2013 and we finally had our day in court on May 16, 2018. No decision has been given yet. For more information on this charter challenge, visit www.FixtheLaw.ca.

We have even had some of our members return to school to become paralegals with the intention of helping property owners who find themselves being charged by by-law officers and conservation authorities.

Why do we continue to do all these things as volunteers?  Even with a change in provincial government, it will take years to remove and reduce the excessive legislation and over-regulation, and to cut the red-tape so that, for example, when a property owner goes to get a building permit to build a home or add an addition to an existing one, or to build a shed on their property, they are met with a staff member who says “how can I help” rather than “you can’t do that and if you try to do it, we’ll take you to court”. Until we see real progress in the restoration of property rights, we will continue to “educate the public” and to “aid landowners who are being affected by or harmed by government actions”.

We are all volunteers, we travel on our own dime, and we do not rely on governments for funding.

And we couldn’t do any of this without the army of people who support us by buying memberships, donating to our causes, showing up at our meetings, sitting on our boards, volunteering to staff our booths, and the countless other things you do to help.

Thank you!

If you would like to purchase an OLA membership, make a donation, or volunteer with this dynamic organization, write to info@ontariolandowners.ca.

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