Is Social Licence A Licence To Stall?

  • Mark Lowey EnviroLine

Abstract

The School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary organized a one-day symposium on Oct. 8, 2014 in Calgary, as part of the School’s TransCanada Corporation Energy Policy and Regulatory Frameworks Program. The symposium was titled “Is Social License a License to Stall?” Held at the Hotel Arts, the event attracted a full-capacity audience of about 110 people, including representatives from industry, government and environmental non-government organizations. The symposium included four moderated panel sessions and a keynote speaker at lunch. The School of Public Policy set the framework for discussion at the Calgary symposium with the following description: Canada’s regulators act in the public interest to review energy and infrastructure project applications. Regulators are guided by procedural fairness and follow a transparent application, review and hearing process with data filings and sworn testimony. But that’s changing. “Social license” is a relatively new term, which some interests are using to create a different standard for the approval of projects — especially energy projects. According to social license advocates, projects must meet often ill-defined requirements set up by non-governmental organizations, local residents or other interests — a new hurdle for project approval, but without the rigour and rule of law of a regulator. Is social license a meaningful addition to the regulatory process, or is it being used as a constantly moving goal-post designed to slow down regulatory processes, delay project implementation, frustrate energy infrastructure expansion and even enrich those advocates who promote it as a new model? This paper summarises the discussion and the themes that emerged throughout the day. Most notably, panellists concluded that “social licence” is a real and significant issue that presents both an opportunity and a problem, not only for regulators but for all parties involved in the regulatory process.
Published
2016-03-08
Section
Research Papers