Under Canadian law as it currently stands, the outright taking of private land for public purposes ordinarily triggers a right to compensation in accordance with expropriation legislation. But if the government does not acquire the land, but merely regulates its use, or imposes other restrictions – even if very severe, and even if the result is drastic loss of value – there is rarely a right to compensation.
Expropriation is the taking of private land without the consent of the owner by the government or by one of its agencies in the exercise of statutory powers. Various provincial enactments authorize expropriation, including the Municipal Government Act, Hydro and Electric Energy Act, Post-secondary Learning Act, Education Act, Irrigation Districts Act, Forest Reserves Act, and others. Every expropriation authorized by the laws of Alberta is subject to the provincial Expropriation Act. The Expropriation Act sets out the process that must be followed strictly by any expropriating authority and prescribes how the owner must be compensated. The Act applies to the compulsory acquisition of not only the entire (“fee simple”) title, but also leases, rights of way, or other lesser estates or interests short of full ownership. A similar federal Act governs expropriation by the federal government.