When we think of property rights, we often think of ownership. This is hardly surprising: the word “property” comes from the Latin word for ownership. But property rights can be complex and difficult to define. Proprietary interests in land include not only ownership of the title to land (known as “fee simple ownership”), but also leases, rights of way, licenses, mineral rights, and more. Some legal experts define property as a legally protected expectation to derive an advantage from some resource to the exclusion of others. Owners of land typically expect to have the full use and enjoyment of their property and to be able to develop it with minimal interference from the state or from other. Owners expect also to be able to exclude everyone else from their property and to be able to sell it to whomever they choose and on their own terms. Owning property involves a variety of rights, as well as obligations and liabilities. The scope of these rights and obligations varies from one country to the next, and even from one province to the next, depending on how the law defines and protects these rights.
In Alberta, property and property rights are governed by the common law of Canada and by statutory law. The power of the government over private property, including the power of Parliament and the provincial Legislatures to pass laws regulating private property, is limited by the Constitution of Canada and, to a lesser degree, by Canada’s international obligations (for example, the North American Free Trade Agreement).