ALBERTA LAND STEWARDSHIP ACT NEEDS MORE PLANNING AND LESS POLITICS
Edmonton, AB, 1 May 2009 – On April 27, 2009, the Alberta government introduced Bill 36, the
Alberta Land Stewardship Act (ALSA). While the Bill is a positive step to give legal effect and
support to the provincial Land Use Framework initiative, it has some inherent weaknesses which are
of concern to the Environmental Law Centre, but which can be remedied by amendment.
The Centre’s chief concerns are:
- Broad discretion with little accountability. Bill 36 grants very broad discretion to Cabinet
for many of the key elements of the Land Use Framework, including creation and content of regional
land use plans, and governance structure and implementation of the planning system. There are few,
if any, limitations or checks on this discretion. This approach is inconsistent with the vision and
guiding principles set out in the Land-Use Framework document, which emphasized accountability,
shared responsibility of all Albertans, collaboration, transparency and fairness.
- Limited rights to participate and appeal. Effective regional planning involves a good mix of
“top-down” direction from government and “bottom-up” input from the public. Unfortunately, Bill 36
is solely a “top-down” process with all power residing in Cabinet. Under the Bill, it is possible
for Cabinet to make or amend a regional land use plan without public or regional input. More
troubling is that Bill 36 has limited avenues for Albertans to challenge decisions that may be
inconsistent with the regional land use plans.
- Lack of substantive planning criteria. Bill 36 sets out a variety of regulation making powers
that allow government to pursue valid planning goals, including dealing with the establishment of
thresholds, transitional provisions and monitoring and enforcement. However, leaving substantive
planning criteria to future regulations rather than including them in the Act is of significant
concern. Substantive and robust planning criteria must be laid out in the legislation, including
stated objectives for environmental, social and economic indicators.
These problems can be eliminated by amendment of the Bill to build in limitations on discretion,
public rights to act as a check on inconsistent decisions, and specific, detailed criteria for
regional land use plans.
For more detailed information, visit www.elc.ab.ca and read the backgrounders related to each of
the abovementioned issues. The ELC will release a more detailed commentary and recommendations in
the near future, when staff complete their analysis of Bill 36.
About the ELC: The ELC’s vision is a clean, healthy and diverse environment protected through
informed citizen participation and sound law and policy, effectively applied. Its mission is to
ensure that laws, policies and legal processes protect the environment.