What is Compulsory Acquisition?

Compulsory acquisition is the power of the government to acquire private rights in land for a public purpose, without the willing consent of its owner or occupant. This power is known by a variety of names depending on a country’s legal traditions, including eminent domain, expropriation, takings and compulsory purchase.

Regardless of its label, the compulsory acquisition is a critical development tool for governments and for ensuring that land is available when needed for essential infrastructure. That is why this power is often necessary for social and economic development and protecting the natural environment.

Who has the Authority?

All levels of government in Canada (local authorities, provincial and territorial governments, and the federal government) hold certain powers of compulsory acquisition where the acquisition of land is necessary for certain public purposes.

Affected landowners have rights to ensure procedural fairness including the right to notice, appeal and compensation.

Land Use Planning in Ontario

Land for new developments can come in many forms other than the farmer’s field on the edge of town or the abandoned industrial building. It could be the family-run restaurant on the corner or your apartment building downtown. Compensation might be generous with generally fair and efficient procedures, but the human costs of being displaced from your established homes, businesses, and communities are significant.

In the case of zoning, the good of the many outweighs the good of the few or the one. The greater public good won the argument in terms of harmonious neighboring land uses restrictions on environmental impacts and the community value of development consistent with approved plans. Land use planning law in Ontario is a continuing and evolving effort at reconciling these two opposing points of view.

Planning Due Diligence

The first step to building a new condo development, mall or transit line is to acquire the land that it is to sit on. Residential and mixed-use land are being largely sourced by developers for land acquisition opportunities. Making planning due diligence increasingly important, especially in recent times as a surplus of new acts, regulations and politics have been enacted significantly restricting or qualifying land use rights.

Much of the regulation in this area occur at the municipal level, for example, each municipality has its own zoning by-law(s) which may need to be reviewed depending on the nature of the real estate transaction and location of the property. In addition, a transaction may also be subject to additional layers of provincial regulation, such as the requirements flowing from provincial plans, such as the Greenbelt Plan.

The Planning Act, 1990

The Planning Act (the Act) is provincial legislation that sets out the ground rules for land use planning in Ontario. It describes how land uses may be controlled, and who may control them. Thereby restricting property rights by exercising statutory authority.

Section 34.1 of the Act confers extensive powers on municipal councils to regulate the use of land, buildings and structures through zoning by-laws that can take away property rights or restrict the use of land, and the construction, location and use of buildings or structures without compensation.

In addition, the Act gives council authority to require that land be conveyed to the municipality for park or other public recreational purposes in certain situations:

·  As a condition to the approval of a registered plan of subdivision
·  As a condition to the granting of a provincial consent
·  As a condition of development or redevelopment


Transportation is a good argument for the greater good. It is intended for public use and is necessary. For instance, Metrolinx’s latest $11 billion project, the Ontario Line is a 15.6-kilometer, 15-stop subway line that will run from Exhibition Place, through the heart of downtown, and all the way to the Ontario Science Centre” (Metrolinx). Intended for public use – yes. Necessary – sure. But the eight years of construction disruptions in the city impacting thousands of people and businesses is serious.


People who are impacted by expropriations are entitled to fair compensation prescribed by the Expropriations Act (the Act). The purpose of The Act is to provide full and fair compensation to the person whose land is expropriated. The categories of compensation include the market value of lands taken, disturbance damages, damages for a reduction in market value caused to the remaining land (i.e. injurious affection), and other damages that are the natural and reasonable consequence of the expropriation.

If you, as the landowner, do not agree with the amount of money that the authority offers, you can request mediation with the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT). The OLT will try to help negotiate a settlement between you and the authority.

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