May 16, 2017 – The federal government should restore the independence of the National Energy Board’s (NEB) decisionmaking authority for pipeline applications, according to a new report from the C.D. Howe Institute. In How to Restore Public Trust and Credibility at the National Energy Board, author Lesley Matthews urges Ottawa to establish the NEB as a credible, effective and efficient energy regulator.
“Given that the expert panel just delivered a report yesterday on reforming the NEB to Jim Carr, the Minister of Natural Resources, we are at a critical juncture,” stated Matthews. “It is vital that the government take the required steps to restore public trust in the NEB.”
The author assesses whether the NEB is “broken” by evaluating its performance against six recognized attributes of an effective and efficient regulator, including: independence, conflict-of-interest protection, transparent and inclusive processes, performance management and adaptability, capacity, and enabling factors.
From this analysis the author makes 23 recommendations intended to assist the NEB, as well as the federal government, in improving the effectiveness and efficiency of federal energy regulation in Canada. Among the key recommendations:
- The federal government should restore the independence of the NEB’s decisionmaking authority for pipeline applications, eliminating political overrides of NEB decisions except via courts.
- To keep the review process timely, review participants should be limited to those directly affected or have relevant expertise related to the project under review.
- However, the federal government should rescind the one-size-fits-all time-limit requirements on NEB reviews and instead require each panel to determine the timeline for each review.
- Outside of the formal hearing process, the NEB should implement a mechanism for ongoing public engagement, with an initial focus on local and Aboriginal communities affected by NEB-regulated facilities, on the range of issues under its mandate.
- To reduce the perception of a conflict of interest, the NEB should review its staff Code of Conduct to ensure it covers all situations potentially creating a conflict of interest.
- Ottawa should also make sure that the NEB has the capacity to attract the best candidates for its needs and that it transparently evaluates its overarching regulatory goals.
- In partnership with the provinces and territories, the federal government should develop an integrated energy strategy reflecting the public interest of Canada, within which the NEB’s work would be framed.
The C.D. Howe Institute is an independent not-for-profit research institute whose mission is to raise living standards by fostering economically sound public policies. Widely considered to be Canada's most influential think tank, the Institute is a trusted source of essential policy intelligence, distinguished by research that is nonpartisan, evidence-based and subject to definitive expert review.
For more information contact: Lesley Matthews, Principal, Polaris Solutions Inc.: 416-865-1904 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.