A lawyer and oil pipeline advocate with ties to the Northern Gateway project has been appointed to the Senate.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper nominated Doug Black to represent Alberta in Parliament's Upper Chamber on Friday. Black was the top vote-getter in last year's Senate non-binding elections in Alberta and replaces the seat held by Joyce Fairbairn, who retired due to illness.
Black is a senior counsel and vice chairman of Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP, the law firm representing Enbridge Northern Gateway in National Energy Board environmental assessment hearings into the $6.5 billion plan to build twin oil and condensate pipelines from northern Alberta to Kitimat. He also founded Energy Policy Institute of Canada (EPIC), a think tank that promotes the expansion of Canadian oil exports to Asia.
"We congratulate Mr. Black as a duly elected senator by the people of Alberta," Northern Gateway spokesman Todd Nogier said, adding the company welcomes any discussion about oil market diversification.
Alberta is the only Canadian province to hold elections for senators, the most recent coming last year in conjunction with a provincial election. Although the results aren't binding, Harper has chosen to forward the names of the winners on to the Governor General for nomination.
As president of EPIC, Black signed off on a position paper in August discussing how the proposed Northern Gateway project could help boost the price Canadian producers get for their oil.
The EPIC paper also cited challenges the current regulatory environment poses for projects like Northern Gateway, specifically the number of people allowed to make oral statements.
"This type of participation adds considerably to the length of regulatory proceedings and rarely adds value, as the interveners often focus on broader policy issues that have either already been decided or that are irrelevant for the specific project being considered," the EPIC report said.
In addition to Black, Harper also appointed four other senators on Friday. Joining Black will be Lynn Beyak of Dryden, Ont., Victor Oh of Mississauga, Ont., Denise Batters of Regina and David Wells of St. John's.
Also on Friday, the National Energy Board's Joint Review Panel announced that the Northern Gateway hearings set for Kelowna on Monday will be closed to the public.
"The panel has become aware of information regarding safety concerns if the hearing continues as originally planned," the panel said in a news release.
The one-day session to hear 10-minute oral statements from members of the public will now be limited to presenters, their guests and the media. A public viewing area will be located at an off-site location.
Similar restrictions were put into place for public input hearings earlier this month in Victoria and Vancouver.