Position profile: Board Legal Counsel

Learn more about the position in the job posting.

  • Job Title: Board Legal Counsel
  • Work Unit: Environmental Appeals Board and Public Lands Appeal Board
  • Ministry: Alberta Environment and Parks
  • Competition Number: 1055874

Position Summary

The Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) is an independent quasi-judicial board that gives Albertans an opportunity to appeal certain decisions made by the Department under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, the Water Act, the Climate Change and Emissions Management Act, and Schedule 5 of the Government Organization Act. These decisions include approvals, water licences, preliminary certificates, remediation certificates, administrative penalties, enforcement orders, and environmental protection orders.

The Public Lands Appeal Board (PLAB) is an independent quasi-judicial board that gives Albertans an opportunity to appeal certain decisions made by the Department under the Public Lands Act and the Public Lands Administration Regulation. These decisions include approvals, refusals, rejections, modifications, cancellations, authorizations, deemed rejections, stop work orders, seizures, administrative penalties, and enforcement orders.

The Board Legal Counsel (Board Counsel) provides specialized legal advice to both the EAB and PLAB.  Board Counsel reports to the Board’s General Counsel and Settlement Officer (General Counsel), and works closely with the Board’s Associate Counsel. The Board Counsel provides legal advice to the Chair of the EAB, the Chair of the PLAB, the PLAB Appeal Coordinator, Board Members, the Board Secretary, the Registrar of Appeals (Registrar), and the Associate Registrar of Appeals (Associate Registrar). This advice enables the EAB and PLAB to achieve its business goals and objectives, and to provide a fair, impartial, and efficient resolution of the appeals brought before the Boards.  Through support provided throughout the mediation process, the Board Counsel works with participants before the Board, Mediators, Registrar, and Associate Registrar to promote the settlement of appeals without the need for a hearing.  The position also ensures the Board's processes, decisions, and Reports and Recommendations comply with legislation, principles of administrative law, natural justice, and procedural fairness. The Board Counsel advises the Board in corporate matters and provides other legal services for the Board. The position assists the Board in legal proceedings such as hearings and judicial reviews, and represents the Board in various forums through public speaking and education. The Board Counsel provides training and orientation to new Board Members to ensure they understand their roles and responsibilities, and ensure the Rules of Practice of respective Board and Codes of Conduct and Ethics are communicated and understood.

The Board Counsel also provides information and assistance to members of the public, participants appearing before the Board, representatives of Alberta Environment and Park, and representatives of business and industry.

The Board Counsel works closely with the Associate Counsel and General Counsel to provide legal guidance on both EAB and PLAB files. The Board Counsel and Associate Counsel collaborate so that one position is primarily responsible for the providing legal guidance on EAB matters and the other position is primarily responsible for providing legal guidance on PLAB matters. The Board Counsel and Associate Counsel provide back-up support to matters from the other Board.  However, to support the workload of the EAB and PLAB, the Board Counsel will work on matters from both Boards.

Specific Accountabilities

Legal advice is provided to the EAB or PLAB to guide processes and operations in line with legislation, and principles of administrative law and natural justice.

  • Participate in the development and drafting of Board business plans and annual reports in alignment with Ministry and government goals
  • Provide legal guidance so that all Board processes, including mediation, preliminary hearings and substantive hearings are governed by clear process in compliance with the appropriate legislation, including principles of administrative law, natural justice and procedural fairness
  • Provide recommendations and interpretation to the General Counsel / Director and Board Chair regarding appeal process requirements, which span a range of topics
  • Provide legal expertise and advice on procedural and policy matters to respond to complex inquiries by the Board staff or the public (typically elevated by Registrar or Board Secretary)
  • Facilitate training and orientation sessions for Board Members to help them understand and perform their responsibilities in an effective manner
  • Mentor and coach Board members

Legal guidance is provided in all mediations to promote the settlement of appeals in a fair, impartial, and efficient manner without the need for a hearing.

  • Establish effective working relationships with members of the public, legal counsel for participants, and/or other participants appearing before the Board
  • Attend mediations with assigned mediator to assist with the process as a resource and a backup
  • Assist with planning and execution of logistics as needed
  • Provide legal information and guidance to all participants (e.g., explain next steps for post-mediation or respond to legal questions so that participants can assess their options)
  • Ensure agreements and decisions are legally sound (e.g., ensure contracts are legally sound; identify potential legal or process conflicts)
  • Provide advice on the best way forward based on how participants would like to proceed (e.g., provide advice on what agreements and commitments can be made)
  • Draft contracts and agreements during mediation so that the documents are ready once the mediation concludes

Provide guidance to all preliminary and substantive hearings to support fair and objective management of appeals.

  • Research and develop comprehensive briefings for each appeal
  • Brief assigned panel prior to hearings so they are aware of the relevant issues and precedents
  • Ensure the process is fair, raising issues and intervening during the hearing, as needed, to remind participants of the appropriate process
  • Serve as the general counsel for the hearing
  • Guide the panel as it moves through processes when dealing with preliminary matters or in hearings (e.g., determination of ‘legal standing’)
  • Facilitate decision-making (e.g., ensuring decisions are not contrary to evidence; that decisions are legally sound)

Assistance is provided to draft and finalize Board Panel decisions in accordance with legislation and ministry requirements.

  • Assist the panel in drafting decisions, taking instruction from the panel
  • Prepare Board decision documents for the Minister’s approval in accordance with specific time requirements
  • Review and revise draft decisions drafted by other Counsel

The General Counsel / Director and Board Chair are supported in leading the achievement of EAB and PLAB goals.

  • Provide regular file status updates and reports to the General Counsel / Director and the Chair
  • Manage the development of responses to queries from ministry officials
  • Develop and deliver stakeholder and public education sessions to help promote the Board's procedures and processes and help enhance understanding of the Board's role
  • Mentor articling students or Board staff

Knowledge / Experience

The Board Legal Counsel requires:

  • extensive knowledge of the legislation that governs EAB and PLAB: Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, Water Act, Government Organization Act, and Climate Change and Emissions Management Act; Public Lands Act and the Public Lands Administration Regulation;
  • comprehensive knowledge of applicable legislation, regulations, and policies (i.e. Forests Act, Mines and Minerals Act, Irrigation Act, Drainage District Act, Climate Change and Emissions Management Act, Municipal Government Act);
  • Comprehensive knowledge of multiple types of law (e.g., aboriginal law, constitutional law, municipal law, oil and gas law, surface rights law, contract law, corporate law, commercial law, and real property law) in the context of EAB or PLAB legislation;
  • specific knowledge of contract law as it intersects with EAB and PLAB legislation;
  • extensive knowledge of Government strategic business plan goals and policy directions, accountability processes, issues, programs, resources, and regulatory frameworks particularly as they relate to the Ministry and Board mandates;
  • extensive knowledge of the appeals process, including the rules of natural justice and procedural fairness;
  • extensive knowledge of environmental policy, including development and implementation at the local, provincial, federal and international level;
  • extensive knowledge of the environmental regulatory process, including a solid understanding of the interaction and interrelationships between the various entities and regulatory schemes;
  • extensive knowledge of remedial and enforcement programs and theories;
  • extensive knowledge of alternate dispute resolution, including dispute resolution and
    negotiation processes and techniques;
  • knowledge of the political environment within which the Ministry and Boards operate and decision-making processes of the Legislative Assembly, Cabinet, Caucus, Treasury Board, and various Government committees;
  • knowledge of the client, partner, and stakeholder community affected by the Board mandate, including relevant oil and gas industry, agricultural industry, forest industry, water management, potable water and wastewater treatment, committees, advisory groups, and the public;
  • extensive understanding of professional ethics, as well as ethical and conflict of interest rules in relation to administrative tribunals; and
  • understanding of related sciences including aquatic and terrestrial biology, chemistry, biochemistry, environmental risk assessment, human physiology, hydrology, hydrogeology and geology.

Education and Experience

  • Bachelor of Laws degree and membership in good standing of the Law Society of Alberta is required
  • a minimum of 5 years’ experience and extensive related experience in the areas of environmental law, administrative law and advocacy, including practice and procedure before administrative tribunals

Leadership and Business Know-How

Leadership is provided via the legal expertise provided to support management of files, mediations, and hearings and guidance provided during mediation and hearings to ensure compliance to process and legislation. The position is relied on to provide legal advice to the Chair, the EAB or PLAB members, the Board staff and, in the absence of the General Counsel and Settlement Officer, the Minister's office that help the Board in providing a fair, impartial, and efficient forum for the resolution of the appeals brought before them. Legal advice is provided to the Board to ensure that Board decisions and reports and recommendations are developed in a fair, impartial, and efficient manner while complying with the appropriate legislation, including principles of administrative law, natural justice, and procedural fairness. Legal information is also provided to the public, participants appearing before the Board, legal counsel for participants appearing before the Board, representatives of industry, representatives of Alberta Environment and other government departments, and the media. The position also provides mentoring, coaching to Board members and staff. The position must demonstrate strategic thinking, including the ability to forecast emerging issues, additional appeals that may result from increased industry activity, anticipate impacts on the Board. The Board Legal Counsel develop plans and presents alternative courses of action to resolve the problems and issues and inform long term direction.

Judgement is applied to identify issues during mediation or hearings that require addressing (e.g., raise and remind participants of the consequences of a potential agreement prior to the agreement being confirmed) and to articulate advice to mediator, panel or participants to support resolution of the issue in line with required process.

To prepare the panel and provide guidance the incumbent completes comprehensive legal research and distills core issues or concepts to form a base of fundamental principles. Research starts as soon as the file is accepted and can span multiple types of law (e.g., corporate, commercial or municipal law). The position must be able to locate, organize, and digest extensive amounts of complex legal and other information, and must be able to distinguish between essential and non-essential information. 

The Board Legal Counsel requires well developed and demonstrated:

  • leadership and relationship management skills in order to work effectively with members of the public, participants appearing before the Board, legal counsel for participants appearing before the Board, representatives of industry, representatives of Alberta Environment and other government ministries, and the media;
  • consultation, negotiation, facilitation, and conflict resolution skills, particularly in relation to working with stakeholders with varying and often conflicting perspectives, interests, expectations, and priorities pertaining to Board processes and decisions;
  • analytical thinking, and problem-solving skills, including ability to analyze information and risks and exercise pro-active and sound judgment in providing advice and recommendations that the Board can rely on;
  • influencing skills to promote the settlement of appeals without the need for a hearing;
  • verbal, written, listening, and interpersonal communication skills, including ability to develop and deliver presentations to officials and key stakeholders on a wide range of issues and explain complex legal concepts in plain language;
  • diplomatic skills, including ability to deal tactfully and professionally with difficult people in highly adversarial and emotional situations;
  • research skills; and
  • ability to coach and mentor others.

Problem Solving

One of the challenges for this position is to provide legal assistance and guidance throughout all appeal processes without interfering in the panel’s decision-making. This draws on comprehensive legal knowledge, tact and diplomacy to bring attention to factors without influencing the panel’s decision. The Board Legal Counsel must also be able to justify the decision in the writing of the decision document and ensure that it is intelligible, rational and defensible.

The interface of multiple types of law and legislation adds to the complexity of the environment in which the position operates. For example, the incumbent must know which agreements and commitments can be made in mediation; some decisions in mediation might need to be first approved by the Minister before the participants can act; other agreements can be entered into a contract one the day of the mediation. The wording is essential so that intended actions are clearly articulated and understood.

In many situations, the legal problems that the Board faces are without precedent and the position must rely on knowledge and past experience to deal with such situations. The PLAB is relatively new and there are not other PLABs in Canada; there are only a limited number of EABs. If precedent is not available, then the incumbent provides the best analogy and interpretation. This can draw on and intersection with other facets of the law.

It is not unusual for the position to deal with matters and issues that are very high profile and have significant consequences.  The position may deal with matters that have broad reaching, economic, social and political ramifications, as well as with very complex legal problems that cross a wide range of areas of the law, including across multiple jurisdictions.  The position must be well versed and current on all of these areas and have a firm understanding of their interactions.  The position must be keenly aware of the legal implications of legal advice.  The position prepares decisions and report and recommendations as per Board members' instruction, being cognizant of the rules of natural justice, procedural fairness, and the legislated framework. Guidance for problem solving is also available via legislation, legal precedent and support provided by the General Counsel, Associate Counsel, and Senior Board Counsel.

Relationships / Contacts

Clients Frequency Nature and Purpose of Contact
Internal
General Counsel Ongoing Participate in the broad planning and priorities for the EAB and PLAB and office; provide briefings and updates and responses to inquiries; provide consultation, advice and recommendations; discuss appeal files; and resolve legal and procedural issues and concerns.
     
Other Board Support staff (e.g., Board Associate Counsel, Appeals Coordinator) Ongoing Discuss appeal files; resolve more complex legal and procedural issues and concerns; provide guidance and mentoring; share knowledge and research.
     
Board Chair and Board members Frequent - several times per week Provide legal advice, consultation, and recommendations; discuss appeal files; resolve legal and procedural issues and concerns; provide briefings; participate in training new members; provide legal review on decisions; provide advice on conduct of Hearings; present briefings based on research; provide mediation support.
     
Senior Ministry and Government officials, including the Minister’s Office   Provide legal advice to support legislative, regulatory, and policy development, strategic planning, and decision-making relating to Board policy operations, issues, and initiatives; exchange information; and provide briefings on legal issues.
     
External
Appellants and their legal counsel; other participants involved in the appeal Ongoing Explain Board processes and decisions; explain environmental law and administrative law; provide and exchange information; respond to inquiries on Board matters and resolve issues and concerns; make presentations.
     
Other Board and Agencies As needed Share information
     
Media As delegated Serve as media contact
     
Federal, municipal, provincial, and territorial governments As needed Liaise and share information on legal topics; share best practices
     
Stakeholder organizations and associations, including industry representatives As needed Explain Board processes and decisions; explain environmental law and administrative law; provide and exchange information; respond to inquiries on Board matters and resolve issues and concerns; make presentations; and exchange best practices and knowledge

Impact and Magnitude of Job (Scope)

High quality legal services and advice are provided that help the Board provide a fair, impartial, and efficient forum for the resolution of the appeals brought before it that helps ensure public confidence in the Board and the Government. The nature of the position's work and the close working relationship with the Chair and the members of the EAB and PLAB means that the position's decisions, actions, and recommendations have a significant impact on the operations of the EAB or PLAB and consequently, on the provision of timely, high quality, and cost-effective legal services by the Boards. Errors in judgement and inappropriate action by the position can have long-term as well as short-term implications for the administration of the Boards and the legislation that the Boards helps to administer. Such an error could result in the Boards being involved in remedial action; an option which is unpalatable for many reasons, including high profiling of issues and the time consuming and often expensive burden to resolve any negative consequences.

The legal advice provided by the position helps ensure public confidence in the Board's ability to provide a fair, impartial, and efficient forum for the resolution of appeals.  For example, the position's ability to work effectively with participants before the Board to settle appeals without the need for a hearing positively impacts the credibility of the Board to resolve matters before them in an efficient and timely manner.   Many of the files are very high profile and have significant consequences.

The impact of results achieved is extensive, given that Board programs and initiatives affect other Government ministries, industry organizations, land owners, other stakeholders, and the public.

The Government of Alberta is committed to a diverse and inclusive public service that reflects the population we serve to best meet the needs of Albertans. Consider joining a team where diversity, inclusion and innovation are valued and supported. For more information on diversity and inclusion, please visit the Diversity and Inclusion Policy.