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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Canada beats the U.S. (in protection of property rights, not hockey)

Confirming my continuing suspicion that Canada is a freer country than the U.S. -- and probably the freest country in the world, all things considered -- the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, in association with the Washington D.C.-based Property Rights Alliance, released the 2010 International Property Rights Index (PDF) yesterday.

Canada ranked 12th in the world, tied with Ireland and Germany, and ahead of 15th place U.S. The top honours, meanwhile, go to the Scandinavian countries with Finland at the top, followed by Denmark and Sweden tied for second, the Netherlands in fourth, with Norway, Switzerland and New Zealand in a three-way tie for fifth.

While it's nice to see that we do better than the U.S., 12th place is still a long ways off from owning this particular podium. And we should own this podium, rather than trying to own the Olympic podium. We should not be behind Finland, or the Netherlands, or Norway, or anyone.

Here's the press release from the Frontier Centre:

WINNIPEG -- The Frontier Centre for Public Policy, along with the International Property Rights Alliance, today released the 2010 International Property Rights Index. The Index, measures the protection of property rights in 125 countries.

On a ranking of one to ten -- the higher scores reflecting a greater protection of property -- worldwide scores ranged from Finland with 8.6, to Bangladesh with a score of just 2.9. Canada scored 8.0 on the Index as did Germany and Ireland; all three countries thus tied for 12th position.

The scores are based on ten measurements ranging in three broad subject areas:

The legal and political environment (as it relates to judicial independence, rule of law, political stability and degree of corruption);

Physical property rights (protection of physical property rights, ease of registration of property, and access to loans);

Intellectual property rights (protection of intellectual property rights, patent protection, and copyright policy)

Results for Canada:

In 2010, Canada maintained its position as the highest ranking country in the Western hemisphere, with increased scores for increased judicial Independence and the protection of physical property. Canada was 12th, while the United States scored lower at 15th. On the negative side for Canada, copyright piracy levels continue to be somewhat high for a well developed country – estimated at an average of 33 percent.

Frontier’s director of research, Mark Milke, notes Canada’s showing occurred in the absence of constitutional protection for private property. “Canada is lucky to have a certain historical and legal framework of respect for property rights. However, and regrettably, property rights are not yet a guaranteed right. As such, the protection of property in Canada is akin to rule by a monarch. You’re lucky if the king or queen is benevolent, but out of luck if the monarch is unwise, unjust or foolish.”

In Canada, governments can still expropriate at will with no constitutional protection for family assets. This has occurred over the decades in almost every Canadian province notes Milke.

Examples of property right infringement in Canada:

In 2005, in British Columbia, the City of Coquitlam widened a local road which caused the nearby creek to encroach another 24 metres upon a privately-owned parcel of land. The entire 1.5 acre parcel was eventually declared “sterile” which meant no development could occur. The land was thus worth little in practical terms for an area that previously could have been subdivided into ten lots. Coquitlam offered compensation – $38,000 – but only for the portion of the land altered by the stream. No compensation was offered for the rest of the property declared sterile.

In Manitoba, in 2007, the Rural Municipality of Ellice attempted to expropriate a significant portion of an 87 year-old farmer’s farm that had been in his possession since 1955. The attempted expropriation was not an incidental occurrence but the first test of a Manitoba Municipal Government Act, rewritten in 1996 to expand the uses for which municipalities can expropriate land. The vaguely written law allows municipalities to expropriate land for initiatives like tourism operations that would compete with private land uses

In 2005, the Government of Ontario introduced a 1.8 million acre “Green Belt” around greater Toronto but offered no compensation for the portion of 1.8 million acres of private land which it put off limits to development.

The above examples and more show the importance of property rights, notes Milke. “Property protection shelters the savings and investments of families, be it their home or other property; property rights also protect risk-taking by individuals and companies, activity that is critical to a country’s general prosperity. Canada needs a constitutional amendment to ensure property rights become a Charter right.”

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on February 24, 2010 | Permalink


This may be all fine and good.But god help you if you happen to be Indigenous. No protection for Indigenous lands, from the so "law abiding/respecting" Canada.

Posted by: dirk | 2010-02-24 9:56:28 PM

dirk, I don't know what specifically you are referring to. However, when a government does not respect property rights for any reason, it is wrong.

Posted by: TM | 2010-02-24 11:40:43 PM

Don't know what I am talking about ?
You are aware that Canada is a settler-state and has(& continues to) ignored or reneged on near every treaty or agreement ever made with the Indigenous peoples pertaining to lands and resources,i.e property.

Posted by: dirk | 2010-02-25 3:27:16 AM

A government *not seizing* property is not the same as a government *protecting* property rights. Heck, I didn't steal my neighbour's snow-blower, but that doesn't mean I'm tops in *protecting* his continued possession of it.

I work in a law office. I hear stories all of the time about what the government - i.e., the enforcement branch - neglects to do. I've literally *never* heard a story in which a police officer protected someone's property rights. Here are few anecdotal examples:

1. I used to live on a corner house in a village. In the winters, snowmobilers would cut across my front lawn on a diagonal at top speed. I had a dog, who sometimes roamed my own front yard. These jokers easily would have run over my dog had he been out there at just the wrong time. I did the research - the trespass to property legislation - then I called the cops. "Sorry, there's nothing we can do" was the reply.

2. A man has his property lines professionally determined. He follows all by-laws, and begins putting up a fence along his property line, in accordance with the rules. Neighbour doesn't want a fence there. Man keeps building it, neighbour threatens physical violence. Man calls police. Officer arrives and tells man "sorry, you'll have to call a lawyer, this is a property dispute". "But he's threatening me with violence". Answer: "Sorry, call a lawyer".

3. I walk into my law office one day. There are two bullet holes in the front window. I call the police. "We don't investigate those, call your insurer" was the reply.

4. A handful of secessionist terrorists seize a privately-owned land development in Caledonia. They blockade roads, start fires, destroy buildings on the property. The media, the cops, and the provincial and federal governments say nothing about the terrorists' claim that they are the only government on that land...instead, the media, the government etc. tell everyone it is simply a dispute over who owns the land. Various high-priced negotiators are brought in. Negotiations predictably go nowhere because it's not about the land: it's about cutting a chunk of Canada out of Canadian jurisdiction. The police stand by and let it happen, refusing to use force against people who, clearly, are not only physically intimidating the people in the area, but who are - at the very least - violating the property rights of the land developer. The government buys the land from the private developer, so that it can say that it is permitting the secessionists to be on the land, such that there is no need for the cops to remove them...thereby masking the fact that the government is unwilling to defend property rights of individuals.

So long as the people calling themselves the government in this country refuse or neglect to defend people's rights to the exclusive use/possession of things that they have obtained by honest means, we share last place with any other collectivist country on any legitimate list of property "protection".

Posted by: Paul McKeever | 2010-02-25 5:19:51 AM

We beat them at hockey now as well.

Posted by: Bret | 2010-03-01 1:17:24 AM

Treaties are a stop gap measure to solve a problem . They are, like every other right , subject to revision when circumstances dictate . They ,like every law ,are based on reasonableness . For example homosexual marriage 200 years ago , I`m sure would have been found to be unlawful , but with the passage of time and inevitable decay of morals , it is now deemed legal ;[ even though its` enactment was dictatorial ] . Similarily land is routinely expropriated for gov`t projects . Texas was annexed from Mexico [ I think ] And Manhatten was purchased from a bunch of Indians for a handful of beads . I don`t think it resonable that in any time soon we`ll be giving back Central Park to the Iroquois , once they get their beads back . It`s unreasonable .

Posted by: daveh | 2010-03-01 3:19:44 PM

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