Citing section 20 of the Alberta Utilities Commission Act, as well as the Commission's authority to determine the processes that best fit the nature of its proceedings, the Alberta Utilities Commission (the "Commission") has recently announced its intention to review the necessity and efficiency of qualifying expert witnesses for the purposes of hearings. To facilitate the review, the Commission has informed all parties involved in Proceeding No. 2739 that it will not be necessary for counsel to request that their respective witnesses be qualified as "expert" witnesses for the purposes of pre-filed written evidence or testimony in the proceeding.
In implementing the pilot project, the Commission observed that it generally allows witnesses to provide opinion evidence where relevant to the scope of a proceeding regardless of whether the witnesses are properly qualified as experts. The Commission determines the weight to be given to such evidence by considering the professional qualifications, specialized knowledge, experience, relevant publications, industry recognition and independence of the witness in question.
The Commission noted that regardless of the change, a witnesses' curriculum vitae should continue to be provided and counsel should continue to review the qualifications of their witnesses as part of the hearing. Moreover, opposing counsel will continue to be able to question a witnesses' qualifications as well as the credibility of the evidence provided. Counsel will also continue to be able to opine on the weight that the Commission should give to a witness' evidence.
The Commission has also indicated that witness cost awards will be calculated based on the contribution and assistance the witness provides to the Commission in understanding the issues relevant to the proceeding.
As observed by the Commission, this decision could operate to streamline proceedings and avoid tangential disputes over the "expert" designation.
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