Liberals name 5-person panel to help reform National Energy Board

The Liberal government has named a five-person panel to make recommendations on overhauling Canada's energy regulator.

Panel will report back with suggestions on how to modernize the energy regulator

Catherine McKenna, left, minister of environment and climate change, and Jim Carr, minister of natural resources, announce approval of the Pacific NorthWest LNG project. Carr announced Tuesday a panel to review the National Energy Board. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr has tapped a top industry executive, a prominent Indigenous leader and a former Liberal MP to help overhaul Canada's embattled National Energy Board.

In a statement Tuesday, the Winnipeg-area cabinet minister said the five-member panel will consult widely with Canadians and produce recommendations on how to reform the energy regulator.

"This targeted review will ensure that Canada's regulator serves the needs of Canadians into the future," he said.

The group will examine the structure, role and mandate of the NEB, which has become embroiled in controversy over its reviews of contested oil pipeline proposals.

The panel is to report to Carr by March 31.

The NEB's consultations in Montreal over the proposed TransCanada Energy East pipeline project were stopped in August by disruptive protests, prompting a temporary shutdown of the consultation process.

The three members of the NEB who were reviewing the project also recused themselves after reports surfaced that they had met with lobbyists. including Quebec's former premier Jean Charest, who were pushing the pipeline. They are still NEB board members, and have since been reassigned to review other projects.

Under the previous Conservative government, the board was given the power to do environmental assessments and public consultations under specific, limited timelines.

Environmental activists have said that NEB  is too close to energy companies to carry out an impartial assessment of environmental impacts.

The Trudeau government announced last January that it was augmenting the existing review process for major energy projects, adding an examination of upstream greenhouse gas emissions and providing further public consultation in addition to the NEB hearings.

Major projects currently under review, including Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain, and Energy East, will proceed through the existing NEB process, but will be subjected to the secondary environmental assessment announced by Carr earlier this year.

The new panel will be co-chaired by Helene Lauzon, president of the Quebec business council on the environment, and former Liberal MP Gary Merasty, a Saskatchewan Cree who is president of Des Nedhe Development.

The full list of panel members are:

  • David Besner, chair of the New Brunswick Energy Institute
  • Wendy Grant-John, first woman elected B.C. Regional Chief to the Assembly of First Nations, senior Aboriginal advisor at Deloitte
  • Brenda Kenny, former president & CEO of Canadian Energy Pipeline Association
  • Hélène Lauzon, president of Conseil patronal de l'environnement du Québec
  • Gary Merasty, former Saskatchewan Liberal MP

With files from The Canadian Press