|Lee Cutforth has been named Alberta's first Property Rights Advocate and is setting up his office at the south-east corner of the Provincial Building. Herald photo by David Rossiter|
Seeking legal assistance can be expensive.
And when that legal advice concerns something like property rights, a large chunk of time may be required as well to sort out those issues.
With that in mind, the Alberta government has appointed Lethbridge's Lee Cutforth as the province's first Property Rights Advocate. Cutforth's three-year term has just begun and he will be based in Lethbridge. The Property Rights Advocate office will also be in Lethbridge and will open in January.
"We realize property rights can be very complex, but they are also very important," said Jonathan Denis, minister of Justice and Solicitor General, who added Albertans will not have another option to seek out advice. "We recognize it can be very expensive for an individual to consult a lawyer."
With that in mind, Denis added there may have been an access-to-information issue surrounding property rights, which he said encompasses anything from surface rights and expropriation to water rights, and everything in between.
"It just keeps going on and on," he said of the potential issues.
Denis mentioned Cutforth came to the top of the list after a nationwide search.
"We interviewed a number of people and we felt he was the most qualified," he said, and added Cutforth has experience dealing with property rights issues with his Lethbridge law practice and on top of that, he is also a landowner.
As for the Lethbridge location for the office, Denis added southern Alberta was a natural fit.
"While property rights are important to urban and rural Albertans, it is particularly important to rural Alberta," he said, and mentioned while Lethbridge will be the headquarters for Cutforth, there will also be a satellite office in Edmonton.
Whether based out of Lethbridge or Edmonton, Denis said the role of the Property Rights Advocate will include not only providing information, but also advice to landowners However, that advice won't be limited to just landowners.
"One of the things the office is tasked to doing is giving us some recommendations on how to improve the system as well," said Denis, who added Cutforth will provide government with an annual report.
In the end, Denis added Cutforth's position was created after a lengthy consultation period with Albertans, a period which also included the creation of the Alberta Property Rights Advocate Act.
"Property rights are fundamental to our province and the advocate will ensure individuals, municipalities, government and industry are aware of the principles enshrined in our legislation," said Denis in a press release. "I am pleased Mr. Cutforth has agreed to take on this very important role and I am confident he will be a significant resource for Albertans."
He added Cutforth will work with Albertans to provide impartial and independent information to deal with issues that could impact property rights and help find the appropriate resolution mechanisms when disputes arise.
For more information on the office, visit http://justice.alberta.ca/Pages/PropertyRightsTaskForce.aspx.