History and Jurisdiction
The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (NSUARB) is an independent quasi-judicial body which has both regulatory and adjudicative jurisdiction flowing from the Utility and Review Board Act. It reports to the Legislature through the Department of Finance. The NSUARB was established on December 14, 1992 under the Utility and Review Board Act, which combined four boards: the Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities, the Nova Scotia Municipal Board, the Expropriations Compensation Board and the Nova Scotia Tax Review Board. These predecessor boards had previously existed for varying periods of time, with the Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities dating back to 1909. In 1996, the Board was assigned responsibility to hear appeals from the Director of Victim Services. The Board was given jurisdiction with respect to the regulation of natural gas distribution under the Gas Distribution Act in 1997 and the regulation of pipelines under the Pipeline Act in 1998. In 2000, certain responsibilities from the Alcohol and Gaming Authority were assigned to the Board, including the granting of permanent liquor licenses, and appeal functions relating to registration under the Gaming Control Act and film classification under the Theatres and Amusements Act. In 2001, the Board was given jurisdiction under the Railways Act respecting the licensing of short line railways within the Province.
In 2007, the Board was assigned powers under the Consumer Protection Act to set the maximum cost of borrowing and other charges or rates, as well as any fee or penalty, respecting payday loans. On October 1, 2008, the Board was assigned the powers, functions and duties of the Nova Scotia Insurance Review Board. The regulatory functions under the Petroleum Products Pricing Act and its Regulations were assigned to the Board as of October 1, 2009.
The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board is currently composed of eight full time Members who hear appeals and applications coming before the Board. These Members are:
- Peter W. Gurnham, Q.C., Chair
- Roland A. Deveau, Q.C., Vice-Chair
- David J. Almon, LL.B.
- Roberta J. Clarke, Q.C.
- Richard Melanson, LL.B.
- Steven Murphy, MBA, P. Eng
- Stephen McGrath, LL.B.
- Jennifer Nicholson, CPA, CA
Brief biographies on the Members are available here.
The Board also has a number of full-time staff, including an Executive Director, a Chief Clerk, two Clerks of the Board, and several advisory and support staff.
The Chief Clerk and Clerks of the Board are responsible for receiving and processing all applications and appeals. They schedule the hearings, respond to questions from the public and handle distribution of Board decisions and orders.
The Advisory Staff deal with matters pertaining to electricity, water and natural gas.
Conduct of Hearings
In carrying out its responsibilities the Board travels throughout the province. It holds hearings in or near the municipality affected by the application or appeal. Many of the Board hearings are advertised in the local press. The Board uses telephone conferencing and video conferencing for some hearings. The Board has also conducted some of its hearings in French.
Board hearings are generally open to the public. While most hearings are one to two days in length, some hearings involving natural gas franchise applications, power rate applications, expropriation matters and municipal incorporation can last up to a few weeks. For instance, the 1999 gas distribution hearing took 49 days. The Board often schedules evening sessions so that members of the public can more easily give evidence to the Board. The Board sits in panels of one, two, three or four members and occasionally has sat with five members. The hearings are recorded.
The Board is required to issue an order in respect of applications and appeals. Final decisions must be in writing and must include reasons for the decision. Orders of the Board may be appealed to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal upon any question of its jurisdiction or upon any question of law.