Impact of Bill 22 and Bill 39 on Expropriation in Quebec 

Written by Cassandre Louis, Marc Beauchemin and Jonathan M. Fecteau

In 2023, the Quebec government introduced Bill 22 and Bill 39, two legislative initiatives that have reverberated throughout the province, profoundly affecting the field of expropriation. Though these bills have distinct aims, they have both raised significant concerns and triggered extensive discussions about how to balance public interest, property rights, and the legal framework governing expropriation. Property owners, expropriating body representatives, legal experts, and advocacy groups have taken active part in discussions and consultations, expressing divergent opinions and apprehensions about the potential repercussions of these legislative changes.

Bill 22: A New Expropriation Act 

Bill 22, also titled An Act respecting expropriation, replaces the Expropriation Act, in force since 1973. It introduces a fresh set of rules, guidelines, and regulations to define and control the expropriation process. This new framework outlines the procedures and criteria for expropriation, including compensation guidelines for affected property owners. Bill 22 is a significant legislative move aimed at streamlining the expropriation process and modifying compensation rules.

While proponents argue that this streamlining could facilitate timely project completion and foster economic growth, critics worry it could lead to fewer consultations with affected landowners and communities. The accelerated procedures might inadvertently exacerbate expropriation-related conflicts and limit the avenues for affected parties to voice their concerns or negotiate fair compensation.

Furthermore, Bill 22 modifies compensation rules, raising concerns among experts and property owners that compensation amounts may drop. These changes have triggered debates about the fairness and adequacy of compensation for expropriated landowners under the new legislation.

The underlying rationale behind these changes is to strike a balance between expeditious project completion and equitable treatment of affected property owners. However, concerns persist regarding the potential implications for consultation processes, the fairness of compensation under the revised guidelines, and the broader impact on property rights.

Bill 39: Disguised Expropriation, Or Is It Really?

Meanwhile, Bill 39, which amends the Act respecting municipal taxation and other legislative provisions, has attracted attention for its focus on addressing disguised expropriation. Newly added sections 245 and following of the legislation aim to prevent property owners from being compensated when a public body exercises its regulatory power within the boundaries of the law. However, the bill’s attempt to establish clearer boundaries between legitimate government actions and disguised expropriation may conflict with established legal precedents and interpretations.

In fact, the new provisions targeting disguised expropriation have sparked debate about how to define and identify such practices. Disguised expropriation involves scenarios where reasonable use of a property is no longer possible due to regulatory changes, zoning modifications, or coercive tactics employed by authorities. These situations might not overtly trigger expropriation but have an undeniable impact on property owners’ rights and assets.

The bill’s attempt to establish clearer boundaries between legitimate government actions and disguised expropriation raises concerns about potential legal challenges and uncertainty in applying the new legislation in practice. The debate revolves around the interpretation of what constitutes disguised expropriation and how this definition might affect property rights and fair compensation.

Overall Impact 

While Bills 22 and 39 mark significant legislative changes, broader trends and concerns in expropriation practices continue. The balance between public interest and property rights remains a key point of contention.

The impact of these bills on the expropriation process will be scrutinised. While Bill 22 aims to expedite critical infrastructure projects and amend compensation rules, its potential repercussions on consultation processes and fair compensation mechanisms have raised concerns. Conversely, Bill 39’s focus on preventing compensation in cases of lawful government actions within regulatory frameworks has stirred debates about the balance between property rights and governmental authority.

The Courts’ Role

Now that these bills have become law, they will be interpreted and implemented by the courts.

There is a dynamic interaction between legislation and judicial interpretation. The courts make sure that laws are applied in a manner consistent with constitutional principles, legal precedents, and the broader interests of justice and fairness. Of particular relevance will be the courts’ examination of the boundaries and definitions set forth in the bills, especially in the context of determining disguised expropriation and recalibrating compensation criteria.

Future Considerations and Need for Clarity 

The impact of Bills 22 and 39 on Quebec’s expropriation landscape transcends legislative changes; it encompasses broader societal, economic, and legal considerations.

These legislative changes underscore the evolving nature of expropriation law in Quebec, highlighting the ongoing efforts to strike a fair and equitable balance between public development needs and private property protection. The debates surrounding Bills 22 and 39 also reflect the questions raised about their potential impacts on property owners’ rights, established legal principles, and compensation regulations.

Moving forward, the implications of these bills will significantly shape the expropriation landscape in Quebec. Clear, comprehensive guidelines and transparent application of these laws will be paramount.

As the courts deliberate on the implications and application of Bills 22 and 39, their decisions will shape how these laws are implemented. Their role extends beyond mere interpretation; it involves providing clarity, addressing constitutional considerations, and ensuring fundamental rights are protected within the framework of expropriation.

Striking a delicate balance between public interest, expediency in development, and the protection of property rights remains a formidable yet critical challenge. Now that the legislators have spoken, it is time for the courts to deliberate.

To read the article in the Chambers Guide, click here.