Alberta's Bill 16

Most of the scary measures proposed in this Bill have been removed. The remaining amendments to the Alberta Maintenance Enforcement Act have to do with adding a $25 penalty for any late payment and empowering the removal of hunting and fishing licenses. Nevertheless, it is worth looking at what was originally proposed to see what steps the Alberta Government nearly went to to attack those who are behind on support payments. Thanks to legislators who did their job in protecting the public from inhumane treatment.

Bill 16 amends the Maintenance Enforcement Act to, among other things, allow the government to seize property of the friends and relatives of those who owe child support. The person whose property has been seized has the opportunity to ask a judge to return the property, after the seizure has taken place.

The bill is intended, among other things, to allow the seizure of property that is “really the debtor’s” but is owned by someone else. Sound oxymoronic? Not if you’re the Department of Maintenance Enforcement!

It may be possible that this law will only be used properly every time by Maintenance Enforcement. But perhaps this law could be used improperly from time to time. In that case, it is up to the third party to pay a lawyer, go to court and hope that the judge will give them their stuff back.

It also may be possible that this law will be used to socially isolate the debtor from anyone who might be supportive, since any association of the debtor may produce a seizure of property, which then is difficult and expensive to get back, if it can be got back at all.

Some stuff in the original Bill 16:
  • Debtors cannot sell their vehicles – their vehicles cannot be transferred to someone else (Section 57.2(3))
  • Debtors will be charged with the cost of enforcement against them (Section 35.1)
  • Third party assets (i.e. assets of friends and relatives) can be seized (Section 24.1)
  • These assets can be seized “ex-parte”, that is, without their knowledge (Section 24.1)
  • The debtor can be charged for the cost of third party seizures (Section 24.1)
  • The government is not liable for mistakes made by employees, except if proven malicious (Section 35.3)