By Trevor Busch
In an effort to more efficiently expedite the resolution of land rights disputes, Alberta is amalgamating four separate boards into a new Land and Property Rights Tribunal.
Bill 48 (Red Tape Reduction Implementation Act) introduced last month includes the Land and Property Rights Tribunal Act, which would consolidate the Municipal Government Board, New Home Buyer Protection Board, Land Compensation Board, and the Surface Rights Board into a single public entity.
The objective is to eliminate operational inefficiencies, share labour resources, and speed up turnaround times. Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter contends that collapsing the four boards into one will create staffing efficiencies that will allow the tribunal to marshall resources where they are needed most to make faster decisions.
“This is a larger strategy that we have to be able to create those efficiencies within our agencies, boards and commissions. One of the problems that we were facing is when they were hived off on their own, you had certain people that were trained to do that job. And then some other people were trained to do another job, with another board. And so by putting them all together and cross training them, we’ve seen that that’s a best practice to being able to bring down those wait times. So we’re actually quite excited, and I think that the groups that we talked to are quite excited, because you don’t want to be waiting for your time to be able to go in front of a tribunal if it’s a surface rights issue. They were backed up quite a bit, this is going to be able to take those timelines down.”
The overburdened Surface Rights Board and timelines involved in coming to a decision on land rights disputes has been an ongoing bone of contention for surface rights groups and activists in the province, who argue reform has been long overdue.
Hunter, who also serves as associate minister of Red Tape Reduction, believes amalgamating these boards into a single agency will go a long way toward addressing the concerns of surface rights proponents.
“It allows us to be able to share resources from the different boards. So we’re not decreasing the amount of staffing, they’re just consolidating together and doing cross training. So someone could do a surface rights tribunal, someone could do any of the other boards that we’re consolidating together — municipal government board — all of them. So it’s actually a best practice that we’ve found in other areas.”
The boards currently operate as independent, quasi-judicial boards, although the chairs of each were combined into a single position in 2016 and they currently share direc- tors as well as office space.