Pipeline panel proves critics correct

Why did Kinder Morgan panel chair publish her opinion before hearings conclude?

Can you imagine a judge publishing her opinion on a criminal trial before either side has finished presenting evidence? Such an extraordinary legal error would trigger an immediate mistrial. Yet when the chair of a panel reviewing a major pipeline proposal submitted an op-ed to the Globe and Mail this week in the middle of hearings, federal bureaucrats made no effort to stop her. In fact, it may have been their idea.

Kim Baird was appointed by Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr to lead the Liberal government’s review of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline and oil tanker expansion. Baird, a registered oil & gas lobbyist, is also a former elected chief of the Tsawwassen First Nation in British Columbia. During 2009 and 2010 she participated in a multi-month “executive exchange” with Kinder Morgan Canada CEO Ian Anderson, after which she signed a partnership agreement to share staff between the pipeline company and Tsawwassen First Nation.

Despite concerns over conflict of interest, panel hearings went ahead during the summer months in select communities along the pipeline route. I attended town hall sessions in Burnaby and Vancouver, where literally 100 per cent of speakers declared themselves opposed. The panel chair acknowledged as much when questioned by a Victoria Times Colonist reporter ahead of hearings in that city: “Very few people, if any, have stood up in favour of the project,” Baird said.

Yet in a bizarre op-ed published in Monday’s paper under Baird’s name, she cites “impatience” as the first of four themes she has drawn from the panel hearings so far: “Many presenters in industry, business and labour organizations have endorsed the [National Energy Board] report and urged a quick and favourable decision. They say that without tidewater access for oil-sands bitumen, Canada is stuck taking a discounted price from our only buyers in the United States.”

Whoever said that is misleading the panel. Industry data show that for the last year and a half, U.S. refineries have consistently paid more for heavy oil than refineries in Europe or Asia. What contrary information is Baird relying upon? The public has no way of knowing. One of the most astonishing features of this new process is that it keeps no records beyond the panellists’ hand-written notes. There is no list of speakers, no video or audio, and no transcripts. So it is impossible to verify Baird’s opinion against what was actually said.

The federal cabinet is due to say yes or no to this project in December, partly on the basis of Baird’s report. This project, and the oil sands expansion it would lock in, represents a fork in the road for a Liberal government that has promised leadership in the face of dangerous climate change. As it turns out, this momentous decision will hang largely on the scribbled recollections of an oil & gas lobbyist whose principal takeaway from hearings thus far has been impatience to get the thing approved.

Prime Minister Trudeau promised a rigorous and transparent “redo” of the Kinder Morgan review as part of a wider overhaul of the National Energy Board — whose membership and mandate were set by the previous Conservative government. Instead, Trudeau has kept the NEB unchanged so it could carry on with reviews of both the Trans Mountain and Energy East projects, under the old rules.

Rather than fix the process and start over, the government has spent the entire summer trying to distract from the discredited NEB process with this improvised ministerial panel. Faced with complaints at each stop about the poor organization, rushed timeline and lack of rigour, the panel’s first instinct was not to address the problems, but to mollify critics with a newspaper op-ed.

This should be troubling not only to oil tanker opponents in B.C., but anyone who cares about procedural fairness and the rule of law. Consultation is a waste of everyone’s time if the government has already made up its mind. This week’s premature op-ed would suggest the Natural Resources ministry is more interested in advancing the oil industry’s opinions than listening to those of Canadians.

Monday, as hearings continued in Victoria, panel member Tony Penikett abruptly left. With no provisions for his replacement, his paper name card sat abandoned as local First Nations and municipal officials did their best to get their points across to the remaining two panellists. It was a fitting end to a slapdash process. Next time the government might as well save the money and let citizens speak to an empty chair.

13 Responses to “Pipeline panel proves critics correct”

  1. Alex Milne says:

    It’s always the same, promises, promises and nothing changes. This review is all a farce and as transparent as a block of concrete Trudeau’s promises are empty and blatant lies.

  2. Peter Morgan says:

    This farce of a panel is worse than the Harper appointed NEB because it pretends to care about the views of citizens and their communities. New boss, same as the told boss.

  3. Gail Dance says:

    There was not adequate advertising, called our City Hall and two local news papers, had three return calls as they didn’t have immediate answers for me. Called after reading some Kamloops Councillors were not aware of their meeting??? also having meetings during holiday season on such short notice is WRONG! Kim and her position now is not the person who should be in charge, can’t be fair! maybe why her Band let her go?

  4. Marilyn Stevulak says:

    I cry foul ! What a sham, it’s disgusting.

  5. Paul Magnus says:

    Unreal. We will have to rise up.

  6. Derek says:

    One might wish to have certain personal bank accounts and others legally investigated so as to ascertain criminal financial incentives accepted…..lets begin with Kim Baird.

  7. dietmar says:

    Wdether its a development permit hearing at the municipal level or a pipeline hearing at the provincial or national level, it seems only the opponents show up.. the majority of people either dont care or are in favour of the proposal. So these hearings dont represent the view of most of the citizens,

  8. George Assaf says:

    Speak up. Call your MP and make your opinion heard.

  9. Canadians need to wake the heck up! The entire process is rigged. No wonder panel members are posting opinions and walking away…. they know these panels are strictly to placate the crowds. We need to call for a STOP to this madness immediately. I’m disgusted with both past and present administrations. It’s our country Canada, let’s get control of it again.

  10. Mike Hansen says:

    Kim did nothing about the poverty and drug addiction on the Res when she was chief, why would she care about the rest of us off the Res???

  11. Leslie Stanick says:

    I attended some of Victoria’s presentations. First, there were almost 250 people who came to participate, as presenters or as audience. The room at the hotel was too small and 150 people were turned away. We waited to hear if a new room would be rented…No. Then we waited to hear if a second day would be added so everyone who wanted to present could…Nothing happened about that. When I was finally able to get a seat in the hall, we were up to #40 on the speakers list of 120. There was no video or audio recording of the excellent presentations, many by environmental scientists and others with extensive backgrounds in the impact of oil an oil spill on the ocean ecosystems, on whales, salmon and other fisheries, tourism, whale watching, and other industries that keep our southern coast employed. Not one person spoke in favour of the expanded pipeline or the extreme increase in tanker traffic through Burrard inlet and through the Salish Sea for the 4 hours I attended the presentations. One spill would destroy this marine ecosystem for generations. We can’t afford to have this happen here.

    Canadians should not be putting our beautiful ocean ecosystems and shorelines in danger of the inevitable oil spills that would occur. Kinder Morgan’s shipping contract is 31 years. This is 11, 315 days of a potential spill, with the numbers of supertankers rising from 60 to 400 supertankers per year. These supertankers are 30% longer than those in present use. In fact they are so large, they can ONLY navigate through Vancouver’s harbour at high tide in the morning, and then with only a 1.5 m clearance. What if there is an earthquake as the tanker is moving through Vancouver Harbour? What is there is a Tsunami rolling in from the Pacific ocean….what happens to these tankers then

    The person in charge of these hearings should be a marine scientist, someone with experience in the impacts of oil spills on marine life, and the damage a spill would cause to the human population as well. Kim Baird was in direct conflict of interest in this process. It was a total sham. The fact that she wrote her published piece before completing the review process says it all.

    PM Trudeau – you told First Nations that you were opening up a new era of respect and consultation. A new way of doing business. This is the same old abuse that has been going on for over 100 years. This new sham of a board insults our intelligence, the rights of First Nations peoples, the rights of nature, and the rights of all British Columbians who expect a transparent fair process for deciding these dangerous projects with horrendous consequences. This event made a mockery of democratic due process. All Kim Baird’s recommendations should be shelved. Listening to an oil insider is like having the fox guarding the hens. These expensive reviews were even worse than the NEB hearings. Industry should NOT be the ones making the decision of pipeline expansion or not, sending supertankers through the home waters of endangered species or not.

    I urge you to ban supertankers carrying oil through our waters and live up to the two very important and vocal promises you made to Canadians and First Nations. 1. Transparent decision making with community consent..2 Ecological care and maintaining a low CO2 footprint in accordance with the Paris accord. Neither of these will be addressed by allowing this dirty fuel to pass through our harbours, and pollute our waterways and air for decades to come. Stop this nonsense, everyone sees through it. Get real about Climate Change and take immediate steps to cancel the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion immediately.

  12. Salal says:

    More rotting government. Who can we trust anymore? Ourselves.

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