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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Ontario Trails News - misinformation spread by some groups and media killing trails economy in rural Ontario

MPP Randy Hillier, founder of Ontario Landowner's Association responds to OLA claims in the Lanark Era
By Gena Gibson
Era staff
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 
Media continues to allow for fear of act - just this week the following commentary appeared:
“Something that bothers me as a rural property owner is forced easement. If I have an agreement with my neighbour or snowmobile club that is exactly what it is, an agreement,” said Karen Mahon, a West Perth landowner. “An easement on the other hand is registered and runs with the land. You cannot get out of it. That is mentioned in Bill 100 and is easement law.”

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."
There is no leading, this is a position the landowner can pursue of their own volition.

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.