NEB Engagement in Québec
Over the past two years, the National Energy Board (NEB) has been moving forward on a path of ambitious transformation, anchored upon improving relationships with municipalities and Indigenous Peoples, improving pipeline safety and environmental outcomes.
As we have been working so hard on this agenda, public scrutiny on the work of the NEB and its pipeline hearings has been, and remains, extremely high.
In order to be an effective and trusted public agency, the NEB needs to understand what is at the heart of the debate, and to be prepared to respond. To truly understand the public’s views on pipelines and the work of the Board, the people that work at the NEB have to get out from behind our desks and meet Canadians in their communities.
And the people that work at the NEB have done that. In 2015, we conducted a six-month national engagement tour to listen to what Canadians thought about the NEB as well as pipeline safety and environmental protection, we established new regional engagement offices in Montréal and Vancouver, and we reorganized the NEB to make engagement a major priority. We also designed how we will conduct the Energy East pipeline hearing - opening up the process dramatically for intervenors and the general public - to help ensure it is the most innovative hearing in the history of the National Energy Board.
The NEB’s new commitment to engagement has been received positively by many of our stakeholders, and it has been greeted with skepticism by others. Specifically, the NEB has been criticized in its work to engage with our stakeholders in Québec.
When planning for the national engagement tour began, the Board was particularly keen to engage more effectively with Québecers and so it sought out advice from several leaders in Québec society on whom the NEB should meet during that portion of the national engagement tour. The leaders from Québec society that the NEB met included officials from Municipal Associations, Chambers of Commerce, a Mayor and a former Premier.
The advice received from those Québec leaders was the basis for fourteen excellent meetings that the Board subsequently held in Québec during the national engagement tour, including meetings with fire chiefs, farmers, environmental groups, Indigenous Peoples, students, as well as five separate meetings with groups of Mayors. Those meetings were very successful as they provided significant insights for the NEB.
While those we met with, at times, wanted to discuss pipeline projects that were being adjudicated upon by the Board, at no time did the NEB officials at the meetings permit any inappropriate discussion of those matters.
It is very important to note that the NEB’s Board Members are bound by a Code of Conduct and Ethical Guidelines - they are obligated to act with honesty and uphold the highest ethical standards.
Most of the community leaders we met wanted to know how the NEB worked to help ensure that pipelines are safe and the environment was protected. Some wanted to know how the NEB’s hearing process worked and how they could get involved in the Energy East pipeline hearing.
Canadians expect the National Energy Board to engage with them both inside and outside of the hearing room - and we will continue to do just that.
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