Canadians who want to tell the National Energy Board what they think about proposed pipeline projects - either in person or in writing - must now complete a 10-page application form proving they would be directly affected by the development or that they have relevant expertise.
The new rules the NEB unveiled on Friday stem from provisions in omnibus budget legislation drafted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government and passed into law last year.
A critic of this change points out that it will likely take NEB officials more time to process and approve an application than it would to simply read the applicant's letter in the first place. But in the aggregate, not necessarily. If the existence of the application process has the desired effect — to suppress interest in even voicing an opinion by making it that much more difficult to participate — then they may be able to simply approve the applications they do get and still be ahead of the game. The actual hearings will have been further "streamlined" and the opposition to whatever project is in question will appear smaller.
Have I mentioned this media release at Sierra Club Canada: New study confirms government misled public on Environmental Assessment 'delays'?
This isn't about speeding up the process, it's about guaranteeing the outcome while minimizing the political damage. But you knew that.