Thursday, November 27, 2014

Canada opposes UN bill opposing glorification of Nazism

Last Friday, Canada along with the U.S. opposed a resolution that was meant to combat glorification of Nazism. The only other country to vote against the resolution was Ukraine.

The resolution was put forward by Russia and a number of other countries. The entire resolution can be viewed here. Part of the resolution claims to be for “combating glorification of Nazism, neo-nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.” There were 55 abstentions including many EU countries. This Lithuanian source explains some of the reasoning behind some of the abstentions. There were 115 countries in favor of the resolution including India, Iran, but also Israel.
 While the Russian motion was no doubt in part motivated by its claims that far-right neo-Nazi groups were powerful actors in the new Ukrainian government, it is surprising to me that the US and Canada voted against the bill. It seems purely a political move designed to try and discredit the Russian motion. What it does is discredit those who voted against the motion. Narrow as the motion is, it still expresses positions that both Canada, the United States, and the Ukraine actually all support. The Ukrainian vote is particularly significant since it suggests that approving the resolution would alienate the very right-wing neo-Nazi groups that the motion is directed against. Ukraine therefore voted against the motion to avoid alienating these groups. No doubt Russia hoped for just such a result. The US and Canada apparently will do anything that would irritate Russia.
Even Israel voted for the resolution parting company with its big supporter the United States. The Ukraine objected to the resolution because the country also suffered under Stalinism and felt that passing the resolution would minimize that suffering. This seems a bit bizarre. One cannot resolve to oppose one evil because others are not mentioned. The Canadian objection has a family resemblance to that of the Ukraine but is much more bizarre: But Canada objected because the resolution has a “narrow focus” and it draws on the controversial declarations of the 2009 World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, which Canada regards as anti-Semitic. Surely Canada should support a resolution that combats attempts to glorify Nazism even if the focus is narrow. Given that the content of the resolution opposes Nazism, how is it anti-Semitic? Canada claims it voted against the resolution because it is anti-semitic. How is it Israel did not vote against it? Maybe Obama told Harper how Canada should vote. Usually Canada supports the Israeli position.
The Jerusalem Post has an interesting comment by Dr. Efraim Zuroff, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem:“There is a very strong tendency in post-Communist Europe to try to rewrite the narrative of World War II and the Holocaust and to try and minimize crimes by local Nazi collaborators, to equate Communist crimes and suffering of Communist victims with Nazi crimes during the Shoah and to glorify local heroes who fought against the Communists even though some of them were actively involved in collaboration with the Nazis and mass murder of Jews during the Holocaust." Zuroff claims that many former Soviet countries, have tried to rewrite history with the Ukraine being among " the worst of them". The appended video also discusses aspects of the situation described by Zuroff.
Germany abstained from the resolution. This is somewhat surprising given that Germany is usually anxious to ensure other countries understand it rejects its Nazi past. Other countries such as Britain and France who suffered at the hands of the Nazis also abstained. The Russians, not surprisingly, expressed regret that not all countries supported the resolution. A Russian Foreign Ministry statement said: "The fact that the US, Canada and Ukraine voted against, while delegations from EU member states abstained in the vote on this draft resolution, which was supported by an overwhelming majority of the UN member states, is extremely regrettable...Ukraine’s position is particularly dispiriting and alarming. One can hardly understand how a country, the people of which suffered their full share of the horrors of Nazism and contributed significantly to our common victory against it, can vote against a resolution condemning its glorification."

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Burnaby BC and environmental activists fight to protect Burnaby Mountain

Both the city of Burnaby BC just outside of Vancouver along with environmental activists are joining battle against Kinder Morgan

Kinder Morgan intends to expand the Trans Mountain bitumen export pipeline so as to triple its capacity. This would require adding many storage tanks to their present storage facility at Burnaby Mountain. However, another factor that concerns environmentalists is that it would increase oil tanker traffic through the Burrard Inlet by four to six times what it is now, increasing the likelihood of a disastrous oil spill. A National Energy Board (NEB) decision granted Kinder Morgan access to the Burnaby Mountain municipal conservation area. The city plans to appeal the ruling. The city has tried to block the company from doing survey work in the Burnaby Mountain conservancy for the route preferred by the company for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
The Energy Board ruling claims that the geotechnical work in the area is necessary to provide the data to the Board to make recommendations to the government about whether the project should proceed. Derek Corrigan, the mayor of Burnaby questions the Board's legal authority to over-rule municipal bylaws. Corrigan said: "We are disappointed but not surprised by this ruling. We believe that it is inappropriate for the National Energy Board to rule on the critical constitutional issue of whether a multinational pipeline company can override municipal bylaws and cause damage to a conservation area, for a project that no level of government has deemed to be in the public interest." The city lawyer Greg McDade claims that the power to rule on municipal laws and enforcement powers does not exist in the National Energy Board Act and has never been claimed before by any federal tribunal.
 The Board however claims that it does have the power to override municipal bylaws. The NEB order prohibits Burnaby from attempting to enforce any bylaw blocking the Kinder Morgan work but ruled that Kinder Morgan must give the city 24 hours notice of work in advance and also repair any damage its work causes.This is the first time the National Energy Board has issued an order indicating what a municipality must do. Both sides are launching court battles, with Kinder Morgan managing to get a court injunction against protesters who were blocking workers from carrying out their drilling on the mountain.
 Thursday morning police swept in shortly after 8 AM after deciding to arrest anyone not obeying the court injunction. By 9:45 it was reported that at least ten people were arrested with at least one being a First Nations member. The RCMP have forced journalists and witnesses far away. There is an arrest-free area cordoned off by police. The people there are requesting community members to come to the site. As this short clip shows, the police were not always restrained in treatment of some protesters. The incident would appear to be the same as described here: A middle-aged female who was in front of the line was tossed to the ground behind police and was quickly arrested."Hey, that's violence," a protester yelled at police as the woman slammed onto the road. An RCMP tweet claimed that 26 people in all were arrested but that only five remained in custody by Thursday evening. Many were released after being cited for civil contempt. They were required to promise not to interfere, obstruct or impede survey crews.
There is still one ongoing protest a ceremonial First Nations fire remained burning throughout the day tended by a group of women. RCMP Staff Sgt. Major John Buis said: A ceremonial First Nations' fire remained burning throughout the day. A pair of RCMP officers sat down and spoke to a group of women who were tending the fire in the afternoon."We are in discussions with First Nations on how to respectfully remove a sacred fire and totem pole that remain inside the zone in contravention of the order." The government, has recently passed extensive anti-terror legislation. The RCMP has warned that environmentalists are a greater threat to Canada's energy system than jihadists. The climate is being prepared in which any militant actions by environmentalists can be treated as terrorist acts and no doubt dealt with using the powers of the new anti-terror laws. Conservative legislation has "streamlined" approval processes in the Conservative view or "gutted" them in the opinion of environmentalists. Under whatever description, the legislation is a move to prevent environmentalists from slowing up approval or even blocking approval of projects. Marc Eliesen former head of BC hydro recently withdrew from Kinder Morgan hearings calling them a farce and a waste of his time. Having successfully blocked legal ways of stopping development the Conservative government will now see to it that any illegal attempts by environmentalists to stop projects can be dealt with using powerful and punitive anti-terror legislation.

Former Conservative staff member Michael Sona jailed for role in robocalls scandal

Michael Sona, a former member of the Federal Conservative Party staff has been sentenced to nine months in jail for his role in the 2011 Federal Election robocalls scandal.

Sona set a record of sorts by becoming the first and only person, so far, to be sentenced to jail for violations of the Canada Elections Act. The robocalls were designed to misdirect potential opposition voters so that they would not vote on the morning of the 2011 federal vote. Most robocalls are perfectly legal and can be used in political campaigns as well as public information campaigns. The Crown prosecutor had asked for a sentence of at least 18 months. Justice Gary Hearn also gave Sona twelve months on probation. Norm Boxall, Sona's lawyer, had suggested a suspended or conditional sentence but Justice Hearn termed that "entirely inappropriate".
On the morning of May 2, 2011, thousands of automated phone calls went out to some voters in and around Guelph giving incorrect information as to where they should vote. Most of the calls were to Liberal supporters. Sona was found guilty of willfully preventing or trying to prevent electors from voting. The maximum penalty is five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The scheme involved fake names Pierre Poutine and Pierre Jones, prepaid credit cards that could not be traced, and disposable cellphones from which the robocalls were ordered. Pierre's Poutine is a well-known restaurant in Guelph. The identity of Pierre Poutine or Pierre Jones have never been determined. Sona's lawyer argued that Sona did not have enough technical knowledge to be behind the complicated plot. Boxall suggested that Andrew Prescott, Sona's colleague, who acted as a Crown witness and had experience ordering robocalls was a likely suspect. Prescott had testified against Sona and received immunity in return. Even Crown attorney Croft Michaelson cautioned that Prescott's testimony should be approached with caution. The judge also said that he found Prescott's testimony to be largely "self-serving" and also inconsistent.
The judge relied on testimony from other Conservative staff members who claimed that Sona openly bragged about his actions. Boxall, however, questioned the reliability of other Crown witnesses as well. Chris Crawford, a member of the Conservative ministerial staff who worked with Sona on the campaign claims to have overheard Sona talk of misdirecting voters to wrong polling locations and also sending out calls meant to annoy Liberal voters. Boxall was able to force Crawford to admit that after his testimony to Elections Canada he was given a promotion and $15,000 raise.
 Judge Hearn in handing down the sentence noted that although Sona had no previous record his offence was a serious affront to the electoral process. Crown prosecutor Ruth McGuirl said that the sentence sends a message that this "type of conduct which interferes with fundamental rights of voters" will warrant time in jail. Crown Attorney Michaelson also claimed that jail time was appropriate:" (Jail time is needed) to deter this type of conduct in the future, so it doesn’t ever happen again, and more importantly, so those involved in the electoral process are aware we have rules and the rules have to be followed." Both the Crown and the defence agreed that it was unlikely that Sona acted alone. Sona's actions did not prevent a Liberal win in the riding even though the Conservatives won a majority in the election overall.
 The Liberal who won the riding Frank Valeriote said: “I feel badly for Michael Sona that he’s been the pawn, who in part deployed and executed the delivery of the call, but others did, as well, and Michael’s taken the fall." Some suspect that the campaign manager Ken Morgan, who refused to cooperate in the investigation yet was never charged was also involved in the operation. Sona himself at first claimed he was innocent and was being used as a scapegoat, but later at his sentencing hearing in October he was silent. Sona is not the only one to suffer from the incident.
 New Democratic Party MP Pat Martin was involved in a five million dollar defamation suit for comments he made about RackNine the service the Conservatives used for the robocalls. He settled for an undisclosed sum but is still paying it off. Martin said: “Nobody in their right mind believes Michael Sona acted alone but it looks like he and I are the only two that are suffering any lingering effects from the attempt to hijack…the 2011 election.”

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Humboldt, Saskatchewan woman ends up with $950,000 bill after premature birth in Hawaii

A Saskatchewan woman, Jennifer Huculak-Kimmel, went on a holiday to Hawaii in October 2013 while she was pregnant. She ended up giving birth nine weeks prematurely in Hawaii.

She gave birth on December 10th by emergency C-section. She and her baby daughter remained in hospital for two whole months. Huculak-Kimmel thought that her Blue Cross travel insurance would pay her bill but Blue Cross refused to provide any payments on the grounds that she had a pre-existing condition — a high risk pregnancy — and also her insurance ran out during the period when she was in the hospital. A Blue Cross worker wrote to the family: "We are unable to provide coverage for any medical expenses incurred for Ms. Huculak's baby" and "please note that Ms. Huculak's travel policy expired on Nov. 9, 2013." Huculak-Kummel had met with her own doctor who approved the trip, and also Blue Cross before she went on the trip. She said: "Blue Cross said that because I had a bladder infection at four months and hemorrhaged because of that, that they would not cover the pregnancy. We thought we had done everything right. We thought we had covered all avenues and we thought we were covered. We thought we were safe to go." She is quite grateful that her daughter ,now almost a year old, is quite healthy, but she and her husband have no idea how they can pay the $950,000 bill.
 Blue Cross explained their rejection of the claim as follows: "Ms. Huculak was diagnosed and treated for a high-risk pregnancy in the six months prior to departure. As Ms. Huculak is currently hospitalized and being treated for this high-risk pregnancy, any expenses incurred are not eligible under the terms of your policy." Huculak claims that she did not have a high-risk pregnancy but had a bladder infection that led to bleeding. She said: "The specialist in Hawaii said that these things just happen. There's nothing that causes them." Her specialist in Saskatchewan wrote to Blue Cross telling them that it was not the bladder infection that led to the early labor but still her coverage was denied. Huculak was angry because the Blue Cross pamphlet she had said nothing about rules for pre-existing conditions.
 A CBC article gives tips about buying travel insurance. Bill Walker, director of individual products for Ontario Blue Cross warns: "Probably the biggest thing for a person to do is to give as much medical or background history as they have when they're purchasing [insurance]," Medical expenses are much higher in the U.S. than in Canada and so it is important to have travel insurance even for short trips to the US. Walker mentions a case in which a Canadian had a brain aneurysm in Buffalo right on the border but had to be treated there at a cost of $90,000. Alex Bittner, vice-president of the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada notes that on a $100,000 bill from the US, the Ontario Health Insurance plan would pay just $9,000, and so extra insurance is quite important.
 Huculak is not alone in having problems with insurance claims. Two snowbirds from Alberta were denied a $105,000 dollar claim because they had not counted properly all the prescriptions they had in a period before the travel. None of the extra prescriptions involved had anything to do with the health problems that racked up the expenses. Not just Canadians face these problems.
  A Sydney couple John Kan and Rachel Evans were also stuck with a million-dollar hospital bill after their daughter was born in a Vancouver hospital. They had taken out extra travel insurance and extra coverage for the pregnancy but did not realize that the birth was not covered. Just as they were about to return to Australia Evans went into premature labor right at the airport. The baby, Piper Kan, ended up in the neo-natal ward in a Vancouver hospital for three whole months with a bill of about $1 million. The couple actually does not begrudge the bill since they have a healthy daughter. They arranged with the hospital to pay it off at $300 per month. It will take 278 years to pay it off. The Australian foreign ministry is investigating whether it can pay the bill. Australia has reciprocal arrangements with 11 countries that allows Australians to get treatments deemed medically necessary but unfortunately Canada is not one of them.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Manitoba NDP leader Sellinger faces leadership race next March

On Saturday, the ruling provincial Manitoba New Democratic Party held an emergency executive meeting in Winnipeg to discuss dissent within the party with criticism being directed at Premier Greg Selinger by a number of cabinet ministers.

The meeting lasted a full four hours beginning at 10 AM in the morning. Selinger was able to convince the executive that the solution to the crisis was to hold a leadership convention at the party's annual convention March 6, 2015. Selinger was smiling when he emerged from the long meeting and said: “I’m happy that we’ve found a democratic way to make decisions. That’s always been the tradition of our party." Selinger would not comment when asked by a reporter whether some executive members wanted to hold an earlier leadership race claiming that those were "internal discussions".
 Party president, Ellen Offert, said that a committee will soon be set up that will formulate the ground rules for the leadership race. The rules will need to be approved by the party executive and the larger provincial council. The council will be meeting next on December 6th. Offert said: "In terms of the timing, I think the timing is available. I think it can be set up to be fair. We want to be fair for everyone." Selinger was upbeat about the process claiming that it was a democratic way of solving the dispute: "It put democracy at the forefront on how we make decisions. It allows us as legislators to get back to our number one priority, which is serving the people of Manitoba."
 Five senior cabinet ministers recently publicly criticized Selinger for his performance. The party is plagued by low poll numbers. Selinger lost considerable public support when he raised the provincial sales tax from 7 to 8 per cent. There are other provinces such as neighboring Ontario that have the same rate and others such as Quebec have an even higher rate. However, Selinger had promised not to raise the tax in his last campaign and was unable to convince many that breaking his promise was justified. The five cabinet members who criticized Selinger resigned.
 Selinger furher punished the five members by removing some of their caucus privileges. While the five remain members of the party they will not be allowed to attend caucus meetings or have any input into decisions. The government will set out its plans for next year in a throne speech that starts a two-week fall session of the Manitoba legislature.
The next election in Manitoba will probably not be until April of 2016: A federal election is slated for the fall of 2015, so the provincial election is to be pushed back to April 19, 2016, unless the federal government changes its date. This will give the NDP time to try and improve their position in the polls.
  A recent poll published October 9 shows the Conservatives with a twelve point lead over the NDP with the Conservatives having 42 per cent support among decided voters. However, this is down somewhat from a June poll that showed 45 per cent support. The Liberal party has 20 per cent support much higher than usual. Conservative support is very strong outside of Winnipeg with only Brandon and northern Manitoba for the most part showing support for or electing NDP members. The NDP and Conservatives are still neck in neck in Winnipeg.
 The NDP has been in power in Manitoba since 1999. After premier Gary Doer resigned to take a position as Canadian ambassador to the US to serve Stephen Harper's Conservative government, Selinger led the party into the 2011 election. Doer had been popular and there were some gloomy predictions about how Selinger would perform. He won 37 seats one more than the previous record set by Doer and a comfortable majority in the legislature.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Canada to be a hub for trading Chinese currency

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper returned to Canada after a successful trade mission to China. While Harper did raise human rights and religious freedom issues this did not prevent negotiation of trade deals.

One of the more important deals makes Canada a hub for trading in Chinese currency the yuan, or renminbi (RMB). This should encourage more trade between Canada and China as it will make speed of transactions quicker and decrease costs. It will also be a boost to Canada's financial sector based in Toronto. China is already the world's second largest economy and is one of the fastest growing as well. The new deal will also allow Canadians to open bank accounts that contain renminbi. Canadian investors will be able to buy up to 50 billion in renminbi, about $9.2 billion, in Chinese stocks and bonds. BNN calculates 50 billion RMB at $8.2 billion US so the other calculation is probably in Canadian dollars. I checked out the figures on a converter and indeed the first figures are the approximate amount in Canadian dollars.
 Jason Henderson, head of global banking for HSBC said: "What this is, hopefully, is a wakeup call to Canadian business to do more trade with China. Instead of being 21st on China’s list of trading partners Canada should be closer to 10th or 12th based on the relative size of the economy." Prime Minister Harper has urged Canadian business to expand international trade efforts to reduce dependence on the state of the US economy and also to increase demands for Canadian goods. At the same time his government has been somewhat wary of Chinese government owned or controlled corporations gaining too much control in our energy sector.
Canada's present trade with China runs at $73 billion a year but the Canadian Chamber of Commerce estimates the hub could boost those figures by as much as $32 billion over a decade. At the same time, the Chamber claims costs to importers would be reduced by up to $2.75 billion.
Canadian trade with China is done through a third currency, usually the US dollar. Now deals could be done directly using RMBs. Over half of Chinese businesses would offer discounts of up to 5 percent if Canadian customers convert Canadian dollars directly into RMBs, a survey carried out by the HSBC bank found. The hub will be the first in North America but there are hubs already in Frankfurt Germany, and London in the UK as well as Seoul, South Korea. Paris will also soon become a hub. China has named the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China in Toronto as the clearing house for RMB transactions.
 C. J. Gavsie from BMO Capital Markets said: “The goal here in Canada, from my perspective, is we want a Canadian company anywhere in Canada to be able to walk into their local bank of choice and say, ‘I need this RMB product.’ Whether it’s in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, MontrĂ©al or Ottawa shouldn’t make a difference,” A number of other countries are attempting to establish trading hubs for the RMB. The RMB passed the Euro to become the second most used currency in international trade after the US dollar. Gavsie notes: “We are gearing ourselves up to be able to offer renminbi related financial services. Everybody that monitors that activity in Canadian dollars today, we are all huddled around a table saying, how are we going to offer this in renminbi?” China also recently signed a hub deal with Qatar.
 Stewart Beck, president of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada said of the hub deal:"It's a great boon for the Canadian business community, both importers and exporters, because they can now do business in China with the currency and not have to go through multiple financial exchange transactions So the pundits are saying it could double maybe even triple the level of Canadian trade between Canada and China."
 Harper did bring up human rights in his talks, in particular the imprisonment for three months of Kevin and Julia Garratt, although not publicly. But Premier Li Kequiang mentioned that he and Harper had discussed the rule of law and human rights. The Garratt case is somewhat surprising since the couple have lived and worked in China for 30 years. However, they operate a coffee shop near the North Korean border and were arrested in August on suspicion of spying. When asked about the Garratt case the premier replied: "As for individual cases, I want to reiterate that as China continues to build a country under the rule of law, I believe that judicial authorities should be able to handle cases in accordance with the law." The Canadian government has also accused the Chinese government of cyber espionage.
 As well as the hub deal Canada and China signed 20 other deals with a total value well above $1 billion. Among the larger deals was an agreement with Bombardier to sell over $1 billion worth of its aircraft to China Express Airlines. Details of some of the deals can be found here. and deals even include export of BC cherries to China. Somewhat ironically, Canada is also involved in the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement negotiations which excludes China but includes the US.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Scotiabank cuts 1,500 jobs while profits almost 2 billion

Scotiabank is cutting 1,000 jobs in Canada and another 500 in branches outside of Canada. The cuts are happening in a year when the bank has made well over $1 billion in profit.

So far this year Scotiabank has been doing very well: Like Canada's other major banks, Scotiabank has been extremely profitable — with a total $5.57 billion of net profit in the first three quarters of 2014."Today's announcement is a result of making some difficult but necessary decisions to support our long-term goals," said Brian Porter, Scotiabank's president and chief executive officer. The figure of $5.57 billion actually is total revenue according to the Wikipedia entry on Scotiabank, and net profits were $1.8 billion, but this is still a substantial profit. Given that the bank is at present making huge profits with the number of employees that it has it would seem that there is no necessity to cut jobs and certainly not that many. However, the bank's role is to provide maximum returns to shareholders not maximum employment. The bank expects to save $148 million annually as a result of its restructuring.
  Canadian taxpayers helped Scotiabank out during the financial crisis: When the bank was in trouble from the international credit crunch, you, the taxpayers, were there for them. Canada's third-largest bank and 10th-biggest company transferred billions in risky loans to taxpayers, leaving it free to lend that money again. At a profit. According to the narrative in this article Scotiabank is simply being prudent in preparing for a situation where demand lessens and certain economies will face sluggish growth: With higher profits year after year, fear of a slump in earnings could drive shareholders away, slashing a bank's capital value and leading to a further negative effect on profits. A prudent CEO does not want that to happen on his watch. But what Scotiabank may be doing is getting risk off its books and battening down to make sure it will be in good shape to withstand a potential storm.Maybe the storm won't come. But it's good to be ready. That's only prudent. Lost jobs are just unfortunate collateral damage in this prudent process of ensuring there is less risk if there is a slowdown. Actually, actions such as this remove demand from the economy and contribute to sluggish growth. Unemployed workers consume less since they lack the funds to buy goods. They also place a burden on social services and reduce the level of funds to pay unemployment benefits. When benefits run out they may depend upon welfare payments. If other sectors also are downsizing there will be few jobs available.
Scotiabank is not alone in cutting jobs. The Bank of Montreal cut nearly 1,000 jobs in the fourth quarter of 2013 after making a record profit of $4.2 billion but some claim that this is just a necessary feature of a situation where there is improved productivity and a relatively sluggish economy. Ian Nakamoto, director of research at investment firm MacDougall, MacDougall, and MacTier, said: "Most corporations tend to pare back whenever they think they can do with less people. No one wants to be let go, but it's an ongoing thing for any big corporation to constantly look at their expenses and see what they can do without." The idea that there are other stakeholders in the firm other than the stockholders simply does not arise. The purpose of the firm is to maximize profits. If this increases unemployment so be it. This is just unfortunate collateral damage intrinsic to the system. As the appended video shows banks in the US are also cutting thousands of jobs and preparing for headwinds later on after interest rates rise but in the meantime they are making even more profits and their stocks are expected to rise.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Former head of BC Hydro Marc Eliesen withdraws from Kinder Morgan pipeline hearings

Marc Eliesen, who was formerly head of British Columbia Hydro, pulled out of federal government hearings on a proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline that would run parallel to its existing pipeline linking Alberta and Vancouver, BC.

Kinder Morgan has headquarters in Houston, Texas and is the fourth largest energy company in North America. In 2013 Kinder Morgan filed an application before the Canadian National Energy Board(NEB) to build a second pipeline parallel to the Trans Mountain line it already owns. This new pipeline would boost the amount of oil the company could ship to Vancouver to 850,000 barrels from 300,000 barrels per day. Cost of construction is estimated at $5.4 billion.
 The new line would allow much larger volumes of tar sands oil to be shipped to the US and Asia. In a letter sent to the National Energy Board Eliesen claimed that the federal hearing process on the project was "a farce". Among other failings Eliesen noted that oral cross examination of testimony had been removed entirely. Eliesen said: "Unfortunately, I have come to the conclusion that the board, through its decisions, is engaged in a public deception. Continued involvement with this process is a waste of time and effort, and represents a disservice to the public interest because it endorses a fraudulent process."
The provincial New Democratic Party environment critic Spencer Chandra-Hebert suggested that the province should not participate in the federal process: "I think the province should pull out of the Kinder Morgan process, and instead run our own environmental assessment process, where we can hold Kinder Morgan accountable and not let them get away without answering tough questions about their ability to respond to oil spills."
 Kinder Morgan has been found to have violated safety standards on a number of occasions by the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration(PHMSA) in the US. A list of violations can be found here. In his testimony Marc Eliesen described the National Energy Board as "a truly industry captured regulator." Eliesen should know. Not only was he former CEO of BC Hydro but he was deputy minister of energy in both the provinces of Manitoba and Ontario and he also was once on the board of the oil giant Suncor. He spent 40 years in the industry.
 It is not his first foray into criticism of pipeline projects since during earlier hearings on the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines he suggested that the company's energy forecasts were based on "bogus economics". Eliesen testified:“It is my contention that Enbridge has submitted marketing propaganda masquerading as economic analysis because of the one-sided, self-serving private benefit picture the proponent has presented. Therefore the public benefit test is not being met and therefore the project is not in the public interest,”
As to the present Kinder Morgan hearings Eliesen claimed that the hearings are "dismissive of intervenors" and "showed a lack of respect" for participants. In an interview with the Vancouver Observer Eliesen said: "In my view the NEB hearing process is a rigged game. In the past, there was a more objective evaluation of projects that would come forward...but it's reached a stage where the NEB is not interested in the public interest, and more interested in facilitating the infrastructure for the oil and gas industry." The city councils of both Vancouver and nearby Burnaby oppose the Kinder Morgan proposal because it would increase oil tanker traffic in the Burrard Inlet six-fold.
The NEB spokesperson Sarah Kiley defended the hearings claiming they would not be biased: "We have a long history of conducting hearings that are rigorous, thorough and fair and the Trans Mountain Expansion project is no exception. As an expert and independent tribunal, it is up to the NEB to gather the information and evidence necessary to make an informed decision," Kiley claimed that the NEB had removed oral cross-examinations in past projects.
 Eliesen said that any claim that omitting oral cross-examination was standard procedure was simply false: "For them to suggest they've done this in the past is totally misleading and erroneous. We've never had in the history of the NEB a public hearing process in which there was no oral cross examination...You have a situation here where all intervenors have done due diligence and have put in a heck of a lot of work and time and cost...and you submit all these questions. And you have proponents refusing to answer questions, who appeal to the NEB. That's what makes this whole thing a farce."
 There is not just hostility in city councils and at the hearings but on the ground as protesters have blocked survey work in a conservation area in Metro Vancouver. Lawyers for the company are seeking an injunction to stop the protests.