Randy Hillier doesn’t mince words as he dismantles the Ontario Landowners’ Association’s argument about the proposed trails bill making its way through the Ontario government’s approval process.
The Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington Member of Provincial Parliament says the landowners’ group has misled the public on the benefits and drawbacks of Bill 100, which, in part, would regulate easements on private property.
“It’s their inability to understand the English language or their inability to understand legal terminology,” Hillier said in an interview last week. “I’ve often seen it with the present-day (landowners’ association).”
He stressed that Bill 100, which has made it through first reading and has yet to be debated, is a positive bill for property owners and land users, such as snowmobile clubs. “It creates a new legal mechanism that provides greater certainty to trail associations and to private landowners over the use of land,” Hillier explained.
In the past, he noted, property owners and groups have agreed on property use by handshake or informal agreement. Far from eroding property owners’
rights, Hillier added, the bill would give them more control by allowing them to set limits on easements.
A letter in the Feb. 2 Lanark Era by Elizabeth Marshall, the director of research for the Ontario Landowners’ Association, said the proposed legislation would not allow property owners to retain the right to shut down trails if they want or need to.
“This easement cannot be removed by the private property owner; it can only be removed by an ‘eligible body,’” she wrote. Hillier said the statements from Marshall are wrong and misleading.“They’re suggesting that easements can be imposed on private landowners, and nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. “It’s not based on fact.”
He said nothing in the legislation imposes easements on anyone, while it does allow property owners to set limits on use of the trail over their property“(In the current legislation), easements were exhaustive...with no ability to restrict the time of year,” he explained. He used the example of a farm field, which a farmer agrees to allow a snowmobile club to use in the winter, but not during the cropping months.
“So this is a big win for everyone,” he said. “It now allows us to put greater covenants or greater restrictions to the easements.” He said snowmobile clubs, such as the local Snow Road Snowmobile Club, will also have greater certainty of trail use under the proposed regulations.
“A handshake agreement doesn’t give much certainty of use,” he said.Hillier pointed out that if an easement agreement is reached for a five-year term, that will be registered on the land’s title, even if it is sold. The new property owner would see the agreement clearly spelled out, as opposed to an informal handshake
agreement that may not have been mentioned and comes as a surprise when winter approaches and snowmobilers arrive.
“So all in all, I think it is a reasonable and practical and beneficial way to increase recreational use and protection,” Hillier said, noting with a laugh that he doesn’t always – or often – agree with legislation put forward by the Liberal government. “Whenever there’s misinformation or dishonest information put forward, it does, rightfully so, cause anxiety,” he stressed, pointing to the need for further investigation and independent verification.
He admitted that he hadn’t read the bill’s content at first reading, waiting until closer to the debate.“When I saw these outlandish claims, I said, I’ll take a look and read this legislation,” he noted.He said the landowners’ association has made false claims in the past, using the Crown patents as an example. The association encouraged property owners to apply for their Crown patents in an effort to protect their land, but Hillier said that has led some people to believe they didn’t have to follow the law.
“When you break the law, you break the law,” he stressed. “There’s many laws that I disagree with, that I think are foolish, unnecessary and intrusive,
but they remain the law.”
Ontario Trails Council asks media - please stop the incorrect coverage
Not forced. To continue to publish this is just wrong.
"But according to Elizabeth Marshall, the director of research for the Ontario Landowners Association, Bill 100 would lead private property owners into thinking they can allow trails across their property while retaining the right to shut those trails down. Shutting trails down that have been registered as easements under Bill 100 would not be as easy as it is through direct agreements, Marshall claimed."
We request that media outlets stop publishing comments that are opinion and that are scaring landowners. The OTC has done interviews with these publishers clarifying our position, the Act and our go forward strategy, as well as getting our Press Release to them.
Know your easement and we are working with landowners to make sure the types of agreements are better understood and enacted by them.