[Editor’s Note: Recent events in the County of Thorhild, Alberta, north of Edmonton, have sparked a tinder of debate virtually setting off a mini-firestorm of interest in Land Use Bylaws that appear to be surreptitiously slipping into Canada via some rather suspect sources out of the country. I’m not sure why or how Green Spaces Alliance (GSA) located in Pune, India has penetrated the Alberta market when it comes to designing and/or influencing Land Use Bylaws (LUB) for rural Canada but one thing is certain, a small group of concerned citizens living in Thorhild Country who refer to themselves as “Thorhild County Residents United” managed to organize and effectively lobby their local Council and then issue the following public statement:
“WE DID IT! We here in Thorhild County have some really amazing news! Thorhild County held a Special Meeting on 2pm on Feb 2, 2023 at the Thorhild County Council Chambers with the specific intent to defeat the proposed Land Use Bylaw! The proposed Land Use Bylaw was unanimously defeated!”
In an email to the group from Shannon Stubbs, M.P. on February 1st, 2023 she had the following to say:
Thank you for reaching out to us on this important issue, we appreciate that you included the email strain below it helps a lot for us to be able to follow the issue. We want you to know we have been looking into it as many people have reached out and we are trying to follow up with everyone to give them as much information as we can, we have seen this strain of emails sent from your group from a few residents that are following it, so the message you are trying to share is getting out to people.
Regarding the Land Use Bylaws itself, there is a requirement for municipalities to either develop or update their land use bylaws to include regulations for development. However it does not require use of consultants nor does is give specific requirements for the development regulations. Many administrations are doing them in house. If there is a land use bylaw being put forward, it is important people reach out to their elected officials as those local municipal officials have full power to change or create them, so they can act on the concerns and address it. The steps you listed below would be the steps that would be recommended for bylaw concerns, so that information to people in your email below is great, as it provides not only an overview but also action steps.
Some of the other communities that have updated did not change any level of authority, nor did they add in any other government levels, they only addressed zoning, and process for application for development so there was very little concern by their residents, however that is why residents have the right and should reach out to their local municipality who is putting this forward. We also encourage people to reach out to their provincial representative as it is always good to loop in your local MLA. If every anyone has trouble getting those contacts, please never hesitate to reach out, while that is provincial, we are still happy to help with that. It is also fair to raise concerns with the local municipality in regards to whom they chose to contract as there was not requirement to contract a specific group.
We will continue to follow it this also so please feel free to loop us in on these concerns and reach out if you need additional information we are happy to try find it for you. You can email back to this email or my direct email is below and I am happy to have you contact me directly.
Office of MP Shannon Stubbs
Shadow Minister for Natural Resources
This is but a short introduction to what is an extensive coverage of this issue. The importance of understanding what’s going on behind the scenes when it comes to international organizations effectively influencing Canadian Land Use Bylaws is an issue that rural communities across the country need to be made aware of for as one will see (and hopefully learn from the information contained in this article) it’s critical that counties and regional districts like those we have in B.C. as well as municipalities everywhere, understand the possible repercussions should some of these new (world order?) initiatives begin to take root in Canada.
As will be visibly evident from the two graphics in black in the article depicting some of the glaring anti-democratic rules and regulations that the folks in Thorhild County discovered when they dug below the surface rhetoric and discovered the fine print, these Land Use Bylaws can contain laws that would scare the living daylights out of the average Canadian citizen who values their fundamental human rights and freedoms.
It’s my intention to send this story out to as many regional districts in the province of B.C. as possible along with every rural hamlet, town and city. As I said once a person realizes the overall agenda here it’s certain to cause a major backlash everywhere there are citizens who don’t wish to be told how many chickens they may want to have roosting in their henhouse.]
Re: Thorhild Land Use Bylaw
From: Thorhild County Residents United firstname.lastname@example.org
To: editorcs email@example.com
Sent Friday, February 10, 2023 at 12:04 PM
Thank you for reaching out to us. We are in Thorhild County, northeast of Edmonton and just defeated the proposed Land Use Bylaw in our county. Unfortunately, we don’t have contact information for groups out of Thornhill.
We’re a small group of Thorhild County residents (we aren’t politicians or lawyers, and we have farms, families, and day jobs) in Thorhild County who stumbled onto our proposed Land Use Bylaw (LUB). None of us expected that our concern and experience would reach so many people. We are pleased that it has, though! We are not associated with the government at any level, and none of us are lawyers (some of us do have municipal government experience, though not as elected officials). Our group of Thorhild County residents are the ones who sounded the alarm to the proposed Land Use Bylaw, got the momentum going on Facebook, in person, and by email, and have been fielding emails, phone calls, and Facebook messages from across the country about our story here in Thorhild and on how to approach the LUB in municipalities – including Councillors from other municipalities.
Our group hasn’t actually put out any videos – any videos that you have seen on social media aren’t directly related to our group. We do have some interviews on podcasts, mostly available through Rumble.
Our group hasn’t actually put out any videos – any videos that you have seen on social media aren’t directly related to our group. We do have some interviews on podcasts, mostly available through Rumble.
Master Your Life by Leaha Mattinson:
The Human Responsibility Tribunal:
There are videos that we have seen from TikTok and YouTube, but most of them have incorrect information about the proposed Land Use Bylaw in Thorhild County and contain levels of alarmism and action items that we do not support or condone. Our Councillors are still members of our community and remain our Council – we in the community still have to work with them, so all county residents who have been engaged in this process have been encouraged to be positive and collaborative, since this was the course of action which was agreed upon in our community meeting (detailed below). Calling Council and threatening or reaming them out is not what we encourage in ANY municipality – it is not the way in which to get Councils to work with us, the public – their residents. In our experience that we are currently living, these TikTokers who have hijacked our efforts in posting sensational videos are the reason why Councillors hate us (their residents) and refuse to be civil with the residents in our county – NOT a successful outcome for any municipality when there is the potential to build good working relationships to create and maintain communities that everyone is happy with (the only way to successfully build a strong community that is protected from any top-down measures). We only endorse positive, respectful communication as this is what we expect for ourselves.
While we thank everyone who has endeavoured to bring attention to this, we as a group of concerned citizens and moderators of the FB page, the website, and the public meeting organizers, have not spoken with any creators. They may well have had an impact outside of Thorhild County, but we give full credit to the engaged residents of Thorhild County who took the initiative to get involved. Our own residents here were instrumental in affecting change for our own community. It also seems that a couple of TikTokers have taken credit for our community’s efforts and are taking all of the credit for the momentum our community has seen in defeating the proposed Land Use Bylaw – we had momentum long before any TikTokers went viral (we have attached primary sources in the email further down).
We believe in information transparency and have been encouraging people to engage with their municipalities about their Land Use Bylaws. We have also been providing people with guidance on how to get engaged – we’ve attached the information below for you. This process was successful for us. The information that we provide below has links to original sources: municipal government and provincial government resources.
All the best,
Voice of Thorhild County
WE DID IT!
WE DID IT! We here in Thorhild County have some really amazing news! Thorhild County held a Special Meeting on 2pm on Feb 2, 2023 at the Thorhild County Council Chambers with the specific intent to defeat the proposed Land Use Bylaw! The proposed Land Use Bylaw was unanimously defeated!
We are so grateful that Council listened to the feedback from our community – thank you, Councillors!
We have attached the release to this email, and you can find it here on the Thorhild County website here: https://www.thorhildcounty.com/Community/News-and-Events/Local-News/ArtMID/424/ArticleID/538/Council-to-Hold-Special-Council-Meeting-Regarding-Draft-Land-Use-Bylaw
***Editor’s Note: I’ve added the text of the News Release below:
Wednesday, February 1, 2023 3070
Council to Hold Special Council Meeting Regarding Draft Land Use Bylaw
Thorhild, AB…Thorhild County’s Reeve, Joyce Pierce, has called a Special Council meeting on February 2, 2023, at 2 pm at the Thorhild County Council Chambers with the intent of defeating second reading of the draft Land Use Bylaw.
Bylaw 14-2022 received its First Reading on November 22, 2022, and was followed by a public hearing on January 10, 2023. Many residents have voiced concerns over some of the proposed regulations during the public hearing and since that time.
“We recognize that residents have many questions and concerns about the draft bylaw in its current form,” said Reeve Pierce. “While we intended to take time to look at areas where the bylaw could be changed to reduce the level of concerns, Council has clearly heard that this Land Use Bylaw is not acceptable to the public.”
A draft bylaw can be rescinded by either defeating the Second or Third Readings or if the bylaw does not receive the Third reading within two years of the First Reading.
All Alberta municipalities must have a land use bylaw in place. The County will continue using the current land use bylaw established in 2015, which remains in effect.
The only matter to be discussed at the February 2, 2023, Special Council Meeting is the Second Reading of Land Use Bylaw 14-2022. The draft bylaw will be defeated if the Second Reading does not pass.
Residents can listen to live audio of the Special Council meeting by visiting www.thorhildcounty.com and clicking on the meeting link listed under Council Events.
For the hundreds of people who have been emailing us for guidance and help, this is an example displaying how community engagement is successful. Democracy at its finest. We believe in information transparency and have attached the information that we have been sharing in the email below – these are the steps that we followed. It’s a long email full of valid information and links to each source – municipal and provincial.
Additionally, we received an email directly from our MP Shannon Stubb’s office this morning – we had been CC’d into a fellow citizen’s email and she responded to us directly that “The steps [we] listed below would be the steps that would be recommended for bylaw concerns, so that information to people in your email below is great, as it provides not only an overview but also action steps.”
We have attached that email for your reference, as well.
Congratulations, Thorhild County residents!
Keep engaging with your municipal governments.
Information that we’ve been sharing on our process and what you can do:
Because there is so much information to be had surrounding this conversation, we have found it best to provide it through email or social media – it’s a long email, but we have a lot of valid information in one spot, with links to the municipal or provincial sources. We believe in information transparency.
We’re a small group of Thorhild County residents (we aren’t politicians or lawyers, and we have farms, families, and day jobs) in Thorhild County who stumbled onto our proposed Land Use Bylaw (LUB). None of us expected that our concern and experience would reach so many people. We are pleased that it has, though! We are not associated with the government at any level, and none of us are lawyers (some of us do have municipal government experience, though not as elected officials).
We have your [editor’s. Ed.] email in our contacts, so we will update you when we have updates – we won’t be spamming, only sending email updates when we have them. We also won’t share your information.
Through social media, our website, and our email, it has become clear that this is not an issue specific to our county, but all municipalities all over Alberta and Canada. This is happening everywhere. Right now. We don’t have specific processes for people outside of Alberta, the framework of what information we do have is below and can be used throughout Alberta.
We have information that we’re sharing with people who have been asking for it – it’s posted to the Facebook page and will be up on the website within the day, though most of the information is available in multiple places. The main message is: get people involved. The more people we have encouraging local councils (emails and phone calls, showing up to Council Meetings) to make the right decisions, the better outcomes we are likely to have. In terms of our challenge, share our story as far and loud as we can get it. Bring attention to the issue in all the counties and municipalities and stop these prohibitive LUBs in their tracks – province and country wide.
There is so much information to share with fellow members of the public, that it’s difficult to condense the information into one or two small paragraphs. Especially since all municipalities are experiencing the LUB reviews in different stages and using slightly altered language. The process is mostly the same though, so we are sending you the information we share with people who contact us asking for direction and help. We hope that you find it helpful! You’re welcome to share this email with your friends, family, neighbours.
At the end of this email, there is a list of some of the options available to you as a community/the general public. Unfortunately, Land Use topics themselves can’t be petitioned, but in communicating with your Council and CAO that the community is willing to mobilize in keeping them accountable, the hope is that they will choose to do the right thing. For example: People in our community were saying that they were wanting Council to be investigated for corruption and put in jail, so a couple of people told their Councillors over the phone that that was some of the conversation occurring in the community and those Councillors took notice really quickly of what the people calling them and emailing them were saying. Now, that’s not a viable option, but it communicates to them how upset people are. We have provided some viable options at the end – ones our community may end up using if necessary. Municipal Affairs is also a very good resource for information (information included below).
Green Space Alliance is an international company based out of India with a small office in Edmonton and a small office in Ashburn, Virginia; their specialty – as written all over their website – is urban planning and development. Big cities, like Mumbai (over 23 million people) and Nagpur (population about 46.5 million people). Clearly not an appropriate choice for an almost entirely agricultural community.
Here is their website: http://greenspacealliance.com/
We encourage our fellow residents to call or email their councillors and the CAO (Chief Administrative Officer), as advised by Municipal Affairs advisors. This is the advice for people in all municipalities. Encourage everyone in your county/regional district to contact the CAO AND your councillors to express their concerns – the more people who engage, the more “pressure” there is for councils to be accountable and act in a way responsible to the people who voted for them.
As Albertans, we are always allowed to contact the Government of Alberta Office of Municipal Affairs and speak to their advisors if we have questions or concerns about our municipal bylaws and government. We have spoken with the advisors there multiple times about many questions. They aren’t lawyers, so they advise you on how the Municipal Government Act applies to your concern (they have been great with us so far). If you call the switchboard (phone number 310-0000) and ask to speak to an advisor at Municipal Affairs, they will direct you to the correct people.
You can also contact the Law Society of Alberta. They will connect you with an appropriate lawyer and you get the first half an hour free. 1 (800) 661-1095.
The CAO brings forth documents from the Administration to the councillors to read, debate the merits of, and ultimately pass and enact or defeat. If there are clauses or statements in the documents that councillors don’t agree with or don’t like, it is their responsibility to address those with other Council members and the Administration/CAO.
As residents of our county, the feedback that we have for our Council is that we needed more awareness of the LUB review process before it got to the “Final Draft” stage and before the Public Hearing- engage people on social media, by mail, and in person. Make sure you and the people in your community voice your concerns before or during the Public Hearing – do this by registering to speak, submitting letters to the CAO or Council to be read at the Public Hearing by the Administration (if you can’t attend), attending digitally or by phone (if those are an option), and by attending the meeting and speaking when the floor is open to people who wish to speak (unregistered speakers). We bolded and underlined before or during the Public Hearing, because residents and the Public should also be made aware ahead of time that- by protocol set out in the Municipal Government Act (all municipalities must follow this Government of Alberta document)- once the Public Hearing is closed, Councillors are not permitted to discuss or consider further input or feedback from the public in regards to Bylaw content. Any issue brought to Council before the closing of the Public Hearing is supposed to be considered by Council in their deliberations.
A lot of people have asked us what a Land Use Bylaw (LUB) is and why/how it impacts them. All municipalities in Alberta (and most everywhere else) are required to have one in place. This document governs how different land types can be used and how – for example, it can stop a dump from popping up in your backyard or regulate how your neighbours can use dynamite underground so your well doesn’t collapse in. LUBs are used to govern all land types such as agricultural, residential, commercial, and industrial.
We are encouraging people to check the status of their own municipality’s LUB and get involved if it is in review or rewrite stages. Participate in the surveys and watch the progress – provide input when it’s asked for. A good place to start looking for a Land Use Bylaw document for your county is the County/ Municipality website or simply searching, “Municipality Name” Land Use Bylaw. We had to use a search engine to find the document, since it wasn’t readily available or searchable on our County’s website. Our proposed LUB can be found here: https://www.thorhildcounty.com/Portals/0/2022-10-27%20LUB%20Final%20Draft%20for%20Council.pdf
Our recommendations to members of the public (in any municipality) for this process are below:
1 – Familiarize yourself with the existing Bylaws.
2 – When were they last written/updated? Do they need updating?
3 – Check out your consultant – their company name and logo will be on the front page or within the first two pages of the document. Some consultants are easy to tell if they’re a good match for your County. Some are easy to determine that they aren’t a good fit, too (like having an “Urban Planning” firm draft documents for an agricultural county). Most have a website, browse it.
4 – Read your new proposed Land Use Bylaw (take a glass of wine, tea, or hot chocolate if you need to).
4a – Make a list of all of the changes that concern you, or as many as you can.
4b – Look for “In case of an emergency” clauses (lockdowns, climate lockdowns, and public emergencies).
5 – If you aren’t happy with what you see in the proposed Bylaw, request justification for the specific changes from your Councillor and the CAO/Administration and communicate your concerns with the CAO and your Councillor.
6 – Request amendments and edits to the draft before it passes the First Hearing. Read the document and be prepared before the First Hearing, which is where the Councillors can ask questions about the document and put forth motions to have it adjusted before returning it to Chambers for another attempt at a First Reading.
6a – Tell your neighbours and friends. If the document is still unsatisfactory to you and passes the First Reading, speak at the Public Hearing and get your neighbours and friends to as well. (People can speak if they aren’t registered, but if you are registered to speak, then you will have a designated time to speak). Articulate the issues you/they have with the document. Having people in the community like us who monitor the activity of Council is awesome to keep Council accountable and transparent.
7 – Ask questions and demand answers.
8 – Stick with the process. Watch for when Council brings the LUB to its next reading (second or third) and be there for the meeting.
Approaching the new proposed LUB, we highly recommend reading it through. Every page.
Do not forget to cross-reference the definitions of terms because those definitions can be quite restrictive without you realizing it. Look at the sections on “Enforcement,” “Non-Conforming” structures or “Non-conformity,” and Land Use Districts that are relevant to you (though it’s good to have a sense of what is happening in all of the Land Use Zones; for example, some of our members are on farms and others are on residential properties, so we each looked at the Land Use Zone appropriate to where we live and then kept reading about the other zones). Also, search the document for language like “in the opinion of,” “to the satisfaction of,” and “deemed necessary by” the Development Authority. Every municipality uses slightly different language, so you can key word search for (Find in page): satisfaction, opinion, non-con (to bring up clauses that have non-conforming or non-conformity in them). Some other places to look for excessive restrictions are Signage (freedom of expression and speech), Landscaping (and other General Requirements like Fencing), and Hens (yes, chickens- check if hen enclosures need permits no matter how big or small they are, even if they’re on farms).
If the Bylaw refers you to another County Bylaw, cross-check with that Bylaw and make sure that the document exists AND is what the new proposed LUB suggests it is (for example, our proposed LUB directs the reader to the “Urban Hen Bylaw” though Council voted against Urban Hens in 2021 and there is no such document. Our proposed LUB also directs us to the Animal Control Act for how to keep animals; however, our County’s Animal Control Bylaw is specific to dogs).
We have been encouraging the residents in Thorhild County who contact us to call and/or email our Councillors and the CAO (Chief Administrative Officer). So this also applies to other counties. The key is ALSO to contact the municipality’s office of the CAO, since they also have to record input and engagement. There are no wrong or right questions to ask, but asking questions instead of making statements is a good tactic. Making statements is also necessary.
IF your Councillors decide to move forward with decisions after people from the community have been engaging them, and the community is unhappy, there are a couple of petitions that you can launch as a community:
1- Petition Council to rescind the resolution. This is asking for Council to reverse their decision.
Here is the user-friendly handbook on how to petition your council.
2- Recall petitions. For each Councillor that you want replaced, you will need an individual petition. This triggers by-elections in the districts that each Councillor was removed from. If all councillors are removed, then a full election would be called.
3- Petition the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Rebecca Schultz for an investigation into the affairs of the municipality. The Minister may recommend a variety of options from firing/hiring staff, removing Council members and calling a by-election, to appointing an administrator to act in replacement of Council.
Side note: If enough people are dissatisfied with how the County is operating, this is always an option. 20% of the electors in the municipality have to sign the petition for a sufficient petition.
The user-friendly handbook on how to petition the Minister of Municipal Affairs (options 3 and 4)
4- Petition the Minister of Municipal Affairs to Initiate a Viability Review for the County.
If enough people are disgruntled with how the County is being run, instead of Option 3, the Minister of Municipal Affairs can initiate a review of the County’s viability. This is requesting a review to dissolve the county. Effectively, once the examination of the County is complete, the Minister may dissolve the municipality and partition portions of the County out to other surrounding Counties. This petition can be undertaken at any point, and 30% of the County electors must sign the petition for it to be sufficient.
5- Hire a lawyer to represent the interests of the residents in your municipality.
It’s a lot of work to keep councils accountable if they are not conducting business in a way that is best for the residents of their county. We look forward to updates.
We also recognize that this issue isn’t localized to our county! We’re encouraging people across the province and the country to start paying attention to their municipal LUBs, whether they are in a review or rewrite, and what stage of the process they’re in. Hopefully an engaged and watchful public can keep the punitive and overreaching Land Use Bylaws from being enacted all over the country.
We have information available on our website: https://thorhildcountyresi.wixsite.com/tcresidents
The “Feelin’ Lazy” page is an umbrella page with our Cole’s notes points, but “Impact on Everyone” and the other impact pages (Agriculture, Acreages, and In Town) have specific breakdowns of our concerns with references to sections and pages in the proposed Land Use Bylaw.
And if you’re on Facebook, we have a page there, too, where you can find discussion around this topic: Thorhild County Friends Fighting the Land Use Bylaw
Good luck and all the best!
A small group of engaged citizens