Under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, a project of the magnitude of Enbridge's Northern Gateway proposal triggers a Joint Panel Review. The Joint Panel is made up of individuals representing the federal National Energy Board (NEB) and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA). The process begins with the preparation and submission by the proponent (Enbridge) of a document sometimes called an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This is a very large item detailing Enbridge's views on the projected environmental and socio-economic impacts and benefits of the project. The Northern Gateway EIS is available here, downloadable in pdf by item.
Once the review is underway, the JRP conducts a series public hearings in communities along the pipeline route. Individuals and groups can apply for intervenor status at the JRP hearings and make presentations regarding social, economic and environmental concerns stemming from the project and the claims made in the EIS. The the hearing process is long, tedious, and does not hear all the voices it should. But it does produce a much richer sense of what the project might actually look like beyond and in spite of the claims made by the proponent in the EIS. Once the hearings end, the JRP members
The Mackenzie Gas Project JRP* (the latest one, not Berger) was very similar to this one, and would make a good reference benchmark for what to expect for those interested.
While, in my view, there are serious issues of power, privilege, and bias on the part of some intervenors (e.g. governments) and the proponents, as well as recent changes to assessment process, the process is still very open and there is considerable opportunity for the public to raise their concerns directly to the both the proponents and the JRP. Naturally, this little chunk of open-process democracy is a problem for the Cons.
The intervenors are by and large people - and the groups and experts representing them - who will be directly affected by the pipeline. Joe Oliver's appalling comments about foreign agitators and radicals is an attack on both the fairness of the process (unsurprising from a Con) and the people likely to be most affected by the toxic tube.
The Natural Resources Minister might regret his words if his comments definitively sway local opinion (LIKE THIS) against the pipeline and this becomes reflected in the JRP hearings and final recommendations.
* Mackenzie Gas Project linked website and documents are disappearing online given the end of the project. You may have to hunt around a bit.