Fence disputes to fall to municipalities to resolve

The Line Fences Act has provided a province-wide system for fence dispute resolution

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The provincial government is eliminating the Line Fences Act, which has kept the peace relating to property border fences in rural Ontario for generations.

The act will be eliminated in two years if Bill 132, a large piece of legislation designed to reduce government regulation across 15 ministries – called an omnibus bill – passes. The repeal of the bill caught municipalities and farm groups by surprise.

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Why it matters: There’s concern that trying to eliminate bureaucracy at the provincial level could mean more of a hodge-podge of regulations at the municipal level.

“It caught us off guard too. We didn’t know it was coming,” said Keith Currie president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.

The OFA has just started to connect with the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing on the implications of the repeal of the Act.

A resolution passed at the Ontario Federation of Agriculture annual meeting in Hamilton on Nov. 19, called on the organization to work with other commodity groups to prevent the repeal of the Line Fences Act. The resolution said that creating new bylaws in every township in the province will create more bureaucracy than will be saved by eliminating the Line Fences Act.

“A growing concern is when it gets down to municipal councils, many are dominated by people without an agriculture background,” said Ron Bonnett, an OFA delegate from northern Ontario. He said the repeal of the act will “remove a tool to help make sure there are fair rules around fences.”

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and housing said that the act is rarely used, although he said there’s no requirement in the act for municipalities to report Line Fences Act cases.

“The Act is a dated piece of legislation that is seldom used today, as many modern alternatives exist to solve fencing disputes,” according to the statement provided by Media Spokesperson Lee Anderson.

Municipalities already have the power to regulate fencing through property standards bylaws, said Anderson.

The ministry pledges to help municipalities create their own standards over the next two years, if the omnibus bill passes.

Currie says there remain many unanswered questions including dispute mechanisms and staffing at municipalities.

“What we want to avoid is silly things like municipalities coming in and dictating that it needs to be this kind of a fence, you need a six-foot-high chain link fence,” he said.

About the author

Editor

John Greig has spent his career in agriculture journalism and communications. He lives on a farm near Ailsa Craig, Ontario. Contact John at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @jgreig

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