SOUTHERN ALBERTA: Some area farmers are welcoming new changes to the province's land use act, but they're doing so cautiously.
A first round of changes announced in March sparked widespread criticism, with landowners saying it gave the government power to take over land with no consequences.
"The main concern was the fact that they could lose their land and they wouldn't get sufficient or proper compensation for it or they wouldn't have any right of appeal," Edzo Coke, the Executive Director of the Potato Growers of Alberta, told Country 95 News. "They were worried they could just have their land taken away from them."
Coke says the newest round of changes, introduced Tuesday night, appear to give landowners more right to appeal and greater security over proper compensation. But he says it remains to be seen if the bill will fully address his membership's concerns for the future.
"They just want to have their rights protected," he said. "If they buy a piece of property, they want to be sure that it's going to hold its value and if they are going to have to give it up, that they get its fair value. Not just the value that it returns every year, but what it would return for them long term."
When addressing the bill before Tuesday's vote in the legislature, Lethbridge-East MLA Bridget Pastoor gave a brief, but passionate speech against the changes - saying they don't do enough to protect Southern Alberta farmers. She spoke directly to concerns over the MATL line, a private provider line that for years has been trying to cut through to Montana.
"One of the concerns of the local farmers, of a lot of the potato farmers, is that because of the height of the towers, because the towers go right across their land [...] it will definitely restrict the ability to be able to use crop-dusters," she's quoted in the Legislature's online transcript.
"The planes are not going to be able to dust those crops and are not going to be able to get into those fields and get down low enough because of the wires and the big poles. So that's a huge concern to farmers that use that way of protecting their crops from insects, et cetera."
She also spoke to the act's inability to address land stewardship issues relating to clear-cutting in the Castle-Crown area.
"I just can't believe that it's even going ahead. I don't think there's a great deal of money to be made. I believe that the government itself will be paid hardly anything for that," said Pastoor. "I happen to have a place very close to there, and I can assure you that I am one of the first ones to be saying that I really think that this is probably one of the worst decisions that this government has ever allowed itself to be talked into."