New advocate will need to define job

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A recent appointment by the ruling PC government would indicate that it’s full steam ahead for their overall land use policy agenda. Lethbridge lawyer Lee Cutforth was appointed the first-ever Alberta property rights advocate. At this point it’s hard to determine what his exact role will be as it is the first job of its kind in the country. From the title it could be presumed that the duties will be similar to those of the long-standing and well-respected Farmer’s Advocate position. However, that position has an activist undertone to it that helps farmers deal with not just corporate bureaucracy and red tape, but also red tape and inertia by government departments and agencies. The latter is probably not what the government has in mind in dealing with property rights issues, hence creating a new position and not giving the new responsibilities to the existing Farmer’s Advocate program.

Besides creating the new position makes it look like the government is truly concerned with property rights, an issue that has caused the ruling PC party so much political grief in southern Alberta.

Justice Minister Jonathan Denis, who made the appointment, has stated that the new advocate will furnish information to landowners (which the government perceives as resolving all the political misunderstandings on the issue) and provide advice to the government. The advocate is also supposed to investigate any complaints. I expect how that specific duty is carried out will decide whether this position is of actual consequence, or as some suspect nothing more than political smoke and mirrors.

One difference in this appointment seems to be that it does not appear to be an outright political job reward similar to the one given by the government to defeated former ag minister Evan Berger.

One hopes that considering the estimated million-dollar cost of the new advocate’s office that it will produce some value for the taxpayers’ money. If it doesn’t it will surely become just more political cannon fodder for the opposition Wildrose Party, that has found that the property rights issue is a political gift that just keeps on giving.

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