Public policy is all too often driven by a perceived need to respond urgently to a ‘crisis’ – to be seen to be doing ‘something’. Insufficient attention is sometimes paid to analyzing the real nature of the problem at hand, with the result that legislative and regulatory responses frequently overreach.

Time will tell whether this may prove to be the case with Bill C-69 currently before Parliament, which (assuming it becomes law) would abolish the National Energy Board (NEB) and replace it with a very different Canadian Energy Regulator. The primary responsibility for reviewing proposed federal energy infrastructure projects would rest with a new Impact Assessment Agency (in reality, a recast and expanded successor to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency), with final decisions to be made by the Minister or Governor in Council. Bill C-69 is the government’s response to its pledge to “modernize” the NEB, but it goes well beyond that. The underlying premise is that the existing regulatory framework and process under the NEB is “broken”.

The University of Ottawa’s Positive Energy Research Team does not think the system is broken, but does think that it is in need of “informed reform”. In the most recent of a series of articles to be published by ERQ emanating from the Positive Energy project, Louis Simard submits that three main concepts – “Engagement, Information and Capacity” – are at the centre of the objective of improving the decision-making process to achieve a higher level of public confidence, oriented particularly on a “what is working” perspective.

Adam Fremeth provides “A Historical and Comparative Perspective on Ontario’s Electricity Rates”. He concludes that, while there is no doubt that electricity rates in Ontario have appreciated significantly over the past decade, there have been multiple historical episodes of rapid short-term rate increases followed by periods of slower growth and that U.S. states with similar generation profiles to Ontario have also experienced long-term rate increases.

Amid the well-publicized setbacks experienced by proposed pipeline projects, two encouraging developments have occurred in recent months. The first is the announcement by Equinor Canada Ltd. (formerly Statoil Canada Ltd.) and the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador in July of a framework agreement for the potential development of the Bay du Nord oil discovery located approximately 270 nautical miles (500 kilometres) offshore. In “Offshore Oil Development in Uncharted Legal Waters”, Rowland Harrison (one of the editors of ERQ) explores whether yet another federal-provincial dispute over resources may be in the offing.

The second significant development was the announcement in October that a final investment decision had been taken to proceed with the $40 billion LNG export project proposed for Kitimat, B.C. Gordon Kaiser, also an editor of ERQ, discusses this development in “LNG Canada Breaks the National Regulatory Roadblock”.

In “Union Enbridge Merger”, Patrick Duffy and colleagues review the recent decision of the Ontario Energy Board approving the proposed amalgamation on Enbridge Gas Distribution and Union Gas Limited. The authors comment that the decision is significant for affirming that the ‘no harm’ test, traditionally applied in the electricity sector, can be used to assess consolidation in the natural gas sector. In their view, the decision also indicates a willingness by the OEB to allow monopolization of the natural gas industry in Ontario.

The final offering in this issue of ERQ is a review by Rowland Harrison of the recently-published PIPE DREAMS: The Fight for Canada’s Energy Future, by Jacques Poitras. PIPE DREAMS focuses on the rise and fall of Energy East but also presents a sweeping review of the issues and offers valuable insights into the underlying dynamics that have made recent Canadian pipeline projects so controversial.

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