Opposition parties claim office is elaborate ruse by Alberta government
The Alberta government opened Alberta’s first property rights advocate office in Lethbridge on Feb. 6, 2013.
The office opening follows the appointment of Lee Cutforth as Alberta’s first property rights advocate and the proclamation of the Property Rights Advocate Act in December 2012.
“Alberta is growing at an incredible rate, and it is vital that we strike the right balance between the rights of landowners and the need to expand our communities,” said Premier Alison Redford.
“The opening of the property rights advocate’s office is a vital part of my government’s commitment to landowners that their voices will be heard and their rights will be respected.”
The creation of a property rights advocate office was a recommendation of the Property Rights Task Force.
Premier Redford appointed the task force in Nov. 2011. The task force asked Albertans about their property rights concerns before releasing the consultation results in Feb. 2012.
“Property rights are incredibly important to Albertans and the new office will help Albertans to navigate what can be a complex process and find the best way to resolve their issues,” said Jonathan Denis, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General.
The property rights advocate is based in Lethbridge and was appointed to a three-year term following a competitive recruitment process.
“I am committed to working with Alberta landowners to bring them accurate information on property rights and help them work through property rights processes,” said Cutforth.
“My office will provide property owners with a mechanism to voice their concerns.”
However, Wildrose claimed that the newly-appointed property rights advocate was partisan towards the ruling PCs in the past.
Debunking the claims of the Alberta government, Wildrose Justice Critic Shayne Saskiw said that Cutforth’s Twitter activity during the recent spring election campaign was anything but impartial and independent.
“His frequent pro-PC tweeting leaves little doubt as to where his loyalties lie – and perhaps offers some insight into why he was hand-picked for this sensitive position,” Saskiw said.
Tweets from @leecutforth:
April 22: RT @susan_elliott RT @DavidStaplesYEG One final time: 10 reasons why I’m voting for Alison Redford’s Progressive Conservatives http://bit.ly/I12Qic%20%20%20#elxnpc
April 21: RT @CalgaryRob: Remington: Why this conservative is no Dani boy http://www.calgaryherald.com/opinion/calgary-bloggers/Remington+this+conservative+Dani/6495004/story.html … #abvote
April 20: RT @PCAB_Comms: Wildrose War Room Goes Wild: http://www.votepc.ca/admin/contentx/dpNews/launch.cfm?itemid=2530&r=10187 … #abvote #pcaa
April 20: RT @DavidStaplesYEG: Globe & Mail editorial by Alberta expat John Geiger endorses Alison Redford http://bit.ly/J6Ux4S #abvote
April 17: RT @crontynen: Hearing more & more reports of green & pinks converting to the blue & orange! It’s a beautiful thing. #abvote
April 14: RT @ShawnThePainter: polls show @Premier_Redford as most competant and credible choice for leader #abvote #pcaa #wrp
April 12: RT @KellyCryderman: Redford kicker/zinger/rebuttal: “And fundamentally, my change protects the rights of all Albertans.” #abvote #abdebate
April 11: RT @crontynen: @Premier_Redford stood for change & still does. Great piece: http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/Poisoned/6433925/story.html … #abvote #yyc #yeg #ymm #elxnpc
April 9: RT @RobertRemington: Danielle Smith’s impaired driving fairy tale #abvote #ableg #wrp #pcaa http://shar.es/rqXli
According to the Wildrose Opposition, the Cutforth tweets and re-tweets during the campaign reveal he is strongly pro-PC and anti-Wildrose.
“The PCs hand-picked Mr. Cutforth for this hyper-sensitive position because they know they can count on him to toe the party line,” Saskiw said.
“His past partisan activity certainly calls into question his independence. As a Wildrose MLA, I’m not very confident that if I come to him with an issue on behalf of a constituent that he will give me a fair shake.”
“Wildrose would repeal laws that take away property rights in the first place, negating the needs for the costs of a PC insider, his staff and office.”
Alberta Liberal leader Raj Sherman said that the new property rights advocate office is an elaborate ruse intended to placate a small but vocal group of rural landowners who have been a thorn in the government’s side in recent years.
“This office is a classic case of the PCs wasting money and feigning action on a troublesome issue to try to make it go away,” said Sherman.
“It’s something tangible that they can point to without having to do too much. At the end of the day, however, I suspect the office will serve as little more than a safety valve to divert complainants from the minister’s office.”
While the office isn’t likely to be a huge public expense – it’s only expected to cost $1 million annually to operate – Sherman said that’s still money that should be saved or allocated elsewhere.
“With provincial revenues in free fall and cuts to essential programs and services looming, we need to be scrutinizing every cent we spend,” he said.
“In my opinion, this new office just doesn’t pass the smell test of a reasonable and justifiable public expense.”
Sherman said that with the government frantically trying to find savings in the lead up to the March 7 budget, the logical thing to do would be to axe the property rights advocate office before it even gets off the ground.
“The Premier talks about needing to make tough choices. To me, cutting this new office would be a very easy one.”