Federation of Canadian Municipalities backs Burnaby's call to reinstate full NEB hearings

The City of Burnaby now has some cross-Canada weight behind its call for the National Energy Board to fully restore its hearing process.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities passed a resolution Friday, calling on the NEB to reinstate full public hearings.

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Burnaby initially put forward the resolution at the fall meeting of the Union of B.C. Municipalities, and now the national federation has adopted it as well.

UBCM president and Burnaby Coun. Sav Dhaliwal said the move sends a strong message from 2,000 municipalities across Canada.

"I think most people in Burnaby are supporting what the city is doing - on principle and on safety issues - but now we also know that when we are taking this stand to go against Kinder Morgan and the NEB that we have communities across the country supporting us, so that's a good feeling," he told the NOW.

The resolution opposes changes to the NEB's public hearing process, specifically the loss of open meetings, oral hearings and cross-examinations. Language in the resolution calls the move a "significant erosion of the democratic rights of provinces, territories, local governments, First Nations and citizens."

The resolution also calls on the federal and provincial governments to restore the full public hearing process.

The City of Burnaby is an intervenor in the NEB hearing for the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, which Mayor Derek Corrigan and city councillors oppose.

According to NEB spokesperson Tara O'Donovan, the hearing process is determined by the board on a case-by-case basis.

The Conservative government changed the NEB Act in 2012, and introduced a legislated timeline to have hearings completed in 15 months, but that didn't really impact the NEB, as the board set its own timelines that weren't that different, O'Donovan explained.

"There's been no change. We have flexibility in how we set out our hearing process, some are oral, some are written, (some are both)," O'Donovan said.

"There's nothing in the (NEB) Act that tells us there needs to be an oral or a written hearing. It's the discretion of the board," she said. "It has nothing to do with Bill C-38 and the changes that were brought in in 2012."

O'Donovan said the NEB's hearing process is open and fair.

"We have more than 400 intervenors registered to participate in the Trans Mountain pipeline hearing, which is more than any other hearing in the NEB's history. In addition, we are expecting nearly 1,300 letters of comment from individuals and groups," she said. "The Trans Mountain Project hearings combines written and oral hearing processes, which include an opportunity to file evidence, two rounds of written questions, four hearings to gather oral Aboriginal traditional evidence and the option of presenting written and oral final arguments."

 

Correction: An earlier version of this online story named Coun. Sav Dhaliwal as president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which is incorrect. He's president of the Union of B.C. Municipalities. Apologies for the error.

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