The Collusion Committee
June 15th, 2015
Our first article on CSA’s influence peddling was published in September, 2013. Almost immediately we started receiving new documents from new informants on the sale of safety standards in other CSA committees. The same thing happened in January of 2014, right after we outed CSA’s practice of selling custom legislation.
On May 3rd of this year we published information on CSA committees being used to manipulate legislation, essentially changing Canadian law to protect the interests of CSA members on committee. Well, every time we publish an article on influence peddling we hear from new sources, and this outing was no exception.
In the one week since our latest article, we have received more than one-hundred pages of original source documentation on CSA’s pay-to-play practices.
What follows is an alarmingly typical story of CSA committees influencing domestic law as told by Robert Funk, a CSA Committee member, and as verified through a collection of internal CSA correspondence from multiple sources.
“In 2012 I was invited to sit on an electrical committee and write Code for The Canadian Electrical Code Part 1 section 26 (Let’s just call it the CEC). I was asked for my input and the committee was instructed to regard my input by the CEC Chairman Ark Tsisserev because I am an expert in [electrical penetrations and related].”
Robert was joining a committee crammed with corporate interests, and it worried him.
“Is a volunteer committee really a volunteer committee if the committee is made up of a select few manufacturers?”
That’s a question we’ve been asking since 2012. Having manufacturers making the rules which govern the markets that they compete in is an obvious conflict of interest.
“In order to sell any electrical product in Canada you must first have your product tested to CSA standards. This is to protect Canadians and their property from faulty electrical products, this makes sense. What does not make sense is the fact that the main code writers also happen to [include] Canada’s largest electrical product manufacturers [like] Leviton.”
Alright, let’s say that you designed a new widget. As Robert rightly said, that new widget needs to be certified to CSA standards. Here’s how it works;
“The lab sends the parts to the technical committee to find out which standards apply. The technical committee is [dominated by] Leviton so they get to see the part long before it is released to industry.”
Leviton is a large manufacturer of electrical equipment. There’s a huge advantage for Leviton and other manufacturers on CSA committees to be able to review the engineering of all their competitors’ new products, sometimes months before those products are released to the public. Robert continues;
“Once the product is classified then you start paying a fortune to the lab for testing and in several months you will get your certification. If […] Leviton thinks your product is a threat to their products then they change the electrical code in part 1 of the CEC so then you cannot sell your product. On what planet is this a fair business practice?”
Good question. But remember that Robert is also a CSA committee member.
“Here is the kicker, I am on the committee to change the electrical code and have been since 2012 but Leviton […] did not include me when they were changing the code so that I could not sell my product. So they let me spend a year and my life savings knowing that I could not sell my product in the end.”
Yes you read that correctly, the CSA held secret meetings, excluding their own committee members, to redraft legislation in order to ruin one committee member’s business. Ah CSA, with friends like these…
This particular committee problem began in 2012 with the appointment of Leviton’s Pierre Desilets to chair the CEC Section 26 committee. Desilets was appointed by Ark Tsisserev, the CSA’s Chair of the CEC Committee process. Here is the original Sept. 6th, 2012 appointment letter:
“Pierre; I support your proposed plan of actions, as it might yield a constructive solution by getting the NRC experts involved. By the copy of this e-mail to Phil [Rizcallah], I’m advising the Manager of the IRC Code Section on this subject and inviting him to participate in this discussion. I’d appreciate if you could lead this little group.”
By the way, the NRC is the National Research Council and Phillip Rizcallah is their Manager of Codes.
One month later, on Oct, 22, 2012, Desilets wrote to certain colleagues on the need to speak with one voice on all legislation development issues;
“I am not 100 percent happy with the proposal and I am the chair of this ad hoc. I made my concern known and I had to put aside further discussion due to other duties. I think we should be able to formulate some form of consensus position on the proposal before we submit or we let individual proposals go through.”
That’s fairly important, given what happened next. From our BC source;
“In 2013 I invented an electrical product […] that would solve the problems with installations and also match the existing Code. This was a very clean, simple Code [rule] that had only one interpretation, exactly what it said.
As for distribution, “it is very rare if not unheard of that anyone with a single product could convince an international distributor to take on one product. The Code was so clear and the product so simple that I managed to get a distributor onboard with the project.
“I designed and built the [widget], researched and filed patents and had parts of the invention manufactured abroad. This was an expensive endeavour for me.
“Late December 2013 I showed my invention prototypes at an electrical inspector’s convention in Vancouver” and the response was very positive. “Next step was to start the long expensive process of getting CSA certification on the product.
“I submitted my detailed drawings and prototypes to a Certified Testing Laboratory for testing […] and was quoted a price to do the testing. I accepted and we moved forward.
“A month later I was informed that my product was so unique that the laboratory had sent it to the [CSA’s] Technical Committee for classification clarification and that it was decided that my product would be tested under another [rule]. This did not make any sense to me but I was told that was the way it was, so I agreed to the tests.
“[In] December 2014 I released my product to the industry because I was going to be ready for a January 2015 product launch.”
So far, so good, right? Well, having made all the investment and done all the work, and having jumped through all of CSA’s certification hoops, the new product ran into difficulty.
On Dec. 20, 2014, Ark Tsisserev sent the following email;
“This is a very interesting design and construction approach which will certainly benefit the industry. I’m encouraged by the fact that this product has been certified (listed) for use in Canada and US. I’d like to know to which […] CSA safety standard such listing/certification was done. You might be aware that [the applicable Rule] has been revised – to introduce the new wording of Subrules (2) and (3) as shown below.”
This seemingly innocuous email was actually a bombshell. The Rule changes were crafted such that Robert’s new product was now noncompliant in Canada while the equivalent, longstanding products of the other manufacturers on the CSA committee were left unimpeded.
On the same day, Robert wrote to Tsisserev;
“I have read the amendments and am a little dumbfounded as to the changes. […] I know this may sound a little bit like paranoia but this Code seems like it was written exclusively to exclude my product.
“There never has been a problem with [this Code rule]. There has never been one report of premature failure [in such an application] to the best of my knowledge.” That is, if the change wasn’t made to exclude his product, then why was the change made?
Sensing turmoil, Tsisserev responded that same evening;
“I was not a big fan of the amendment, but….
“Perhaps, you could make an excellent case for the revision of this requirement. We need something reliable, easily installed and enforceable and easily understood by the industry.”
Robert is of the view that Tsisserev is sympathetic to his predicament but feels restricted in what he can do to help. As Chair of the entire CSA electrical Code development process, Ark Tsisserev is very powerful and, if we’re honest, very beholden to the CSA organization. Recall that in the electrical trade everything is CSA, there is no fallback, career-wise, if CSA and their allies frown upon you.
On Dec. 22nd, 2014, our BC source wrote to Suzanne Grobeil, a CSA administrator. The balance of the CEC Section 26 Committee was copied on the email, as follows;
“Is it possible to delay the release of this Code until further reviews have been conducted?
“The original wording of [the Code rule] is / was very clear and clean. I feel very strongly that the new wording will make the whole […] addition to the 2012 Code more confusing and create more hardship for the electricians.
“Also the rewording of a section of the Code when there is no apparent reason other than to halt competing manufacturers from releasing new products flies in the face of the whole mandate of CSA.
“This brings up issues and questions as per collusion and the Competition Act.
“I understand the implications of such accusations and I am willing / able to back them up with hard evidence and witnesses if need be.
“Please do not take this the wrong way, this is not in any way a threat, I am only requesting that CSA have a closer look at this amendment before releasing it.”
One could add that delaying the 2015 Code release was a legal requirement anyway. By January 2015, the CSA had not yet complied with Federal 60-day public review laws on all new standards.
Regardless, Ms Gobeil responded the next day. She was curt;
“The CE Code Part I has gone through all due process and will be released as scheduled on Jan 5, 2015. We have an obligation to publish the code on time. Your request to review the subject section will be forwarded to and be addressed by the committee in due course.”
So Ms Gobeil handed the issue into the care of the same Committee that did the deed in the first place. But this is also familiar to RestoreCSA. Industry Canada told us to complain to CSA leadership about corruption in CSA leadership.
On Feb 25, 2015 Robert appealed to Tim Pope, the CSA’s Senior Project Manager on the file. It read as follows;
“Manufacturers [should] not be allowed to sit on voluntary committees for the CEC. They have controlled these committees untouched for so long that they have turned into bullies.
“Take a step back and look at things from the view of the public and not that of the electrical industry. I for one always thought that electrical codes were written to protect people and property not just the manufacturers bottom line.
“How can any company compete in the electrical market when the Levitons […] have this kind of control? That is another point, I was on the committee […] since 2012. […] It is not a coincidence that I was excluded from discussions on changing [the relevant Code rules].
“I can change my product [to comply with the new rules], that’s not a problem but what if they change the Code again to [exclude on some peripheral issue] or some thing clever like that.
“I feel better about working day and night to have the manufacturers removed from the committees than working on changing my product because they could change the Code again as long as they still hold the same positions.
“I for one have lost faith in the workings of the CEC and I am sure it won’t be to difficult to find others that feel the same way.”
Those are the words of a CSA insider, a CSA committee member contributing to what CSA has called it’s most important product. You know folks, a letter like that is pretty damning, it demands a serious response. But it didn’t get one.
On Feb, 27th, 2015, the CSA’s Tim Pope responded as follows;
“The Committee on the Canadian Electrical Code, Part I is comprised of stakeholder groups representing all aspects of the industry. These include representatives from regulatory authorities, equipment manufacturers, consumer groups, designers, installers, contractors, educators, fire marshals, industry associations, standards development organizations, certification organizations, and homebuilders, among others. As such, we could not possibly exclude manufacturers as this would conflict with our Directives and with the terms of our accreditation as a Standards Development Organization.”
Notice how Pope’s response reads like a PR piece? And note how horridly off-base it is? The complaint wasn’t that CSA’s process is balanced, it’s that the process isn’t balanced. Regardless, Pope continued;
“You are welcome to submit a request to amend the technical content of the Code at any time and I would be happy to assist you with the formatting, language, and use of Code style. By copy of this email to Ark Tsisserev I will invite him to comment on this subject.”
Again, in yet another face-palm moment, the CSA’s proposed solution is to ask the same committee that abused the process to consider halting the abuse. In this, the power over the abuse remains with the abuser.
“Now I know that CSA is the law and we have laws to protect us and I appreciate that, I am fine with designing and testing to standards.
“But what the hell is going on here. I sent several emails at the CEC committee level thinking that there must have been a mistake, a loophole and that something could be fixed quickly. Nope, I was wrong.
“Here is what happened and how all this works and why:
“Who did the testing laboratory send the parts to for classification ...Pierre Desilets [of] Leviton manufacturing. He just happens to be the Technical Committee […] so he changed the classification and he also had a sneak peek at my product. This wasn’t the first time he heard about or saw my product but that does not make it right that; 1) he is able to see it, and; 2) He is the one to select classification for it. As far as I am concerned he wrongly classified it to slow me down because he knew I would have to make changes if it was.
“Who changed the code in the CEC …[again,] Pierre Desilets [of] Leviton manufacturing. Who was I on the committee to change code with ...Pierre Desilets [of] Leviton manufacturing. How long did I work on changing a couple of codes that never did get changed ...over one year. How long did it take Pierre Desilets [of] Leviton manufacturing to change the code that affected my product ...3 months. How many products does my product replace of Leviton’s [and their allies] ...60, and at a quarter of the cost.
“My distributor has decided not to carry my product and I don’t blame him. He said that if [CSA] could do this to me in Canada then they would for sure do it in the US market as well.
So what did Robert do next? Well, he reported the problem to CSA’s internal audit department, through a CSA system called EthicsPoint. RestoreCSA readers will recall that CSA’s EthicsPoint “is a place that we are supposed to be able to go and report unethical activity anonymously, but this is a total scam. What they do is track you through your electronic signature and IP address to find out who you are. They track you so there is absolutely nothing anonymous about it.”
From CSA’s internal reporting, here is their report dated April 13, 2015 on the conduct of their committee:
“Pierre, and […] are members of the executive board for the Committee on the Canadian Electrical Code, which is responsible for writing and changing electrical codes. Pierre is employed with Leviton as a technical standards advisor. […]
“Robert designed and developed a new electrical component according to existing electrical codes. Robert released the design for the electrical component to the market in December 2014 and later received a response that the electrical Code that he used had been changed in Canada in January 2014. Robert said Pierre changed the electrical code to prevent Robert from selling the electrical component in Canada, which Robert considers as anticompetition [sic] corruption. Pierre and […] did not tell Robert about the change to the electrical code. Robert has emails from Ark Tsisserev, head of the committee, who instructed Pierre and […] to keep Robert in the loop on all electrical codes and changes to electrical Codes. Pierre and […] kept Robert in the loop for two years but then stopped keeping Robert in the loop when Robert began to design and develop the new electrical component.
“Leviton [is a] large manufacturer of electrical components. Robert said it is a conflict of interest to have employees from those manufacturers on the committee because they are privileged to new products and developments before they reach the market. Robert said not being able to sell his electrical component was devastating and created a financial loss. Robert has been talking to the committee members to try to rectify the issue.
“Two weeks ago, Robert’s distributor dropped him due to concerns that the committee could change the electrical codes again without his knowledge and prevent him from launching the electrical component in the United States.”
As with our other sources, Robert got absolutely nothing from CSA’s EthicsPoint process. “To date I have not heard anything back from [EthicsPoint] and there has been no response from CSA.” It’s as though these processes exist to enable CSA to claim to have a process rather than to actually correct anything. Robert was beginning to question if what he perceived as rampant “corruption” was, in practice, exactly what CSA intended.
With Robert’s Committee already compromised, the Chair thereof already on the payroll of his competitor, and having already appealed to the overall Chair of the CEC process, and then the CSA’s Administrator, and then the CSA’s Project Manager, and then the CSA’s EthicsPoint process, and all without any movement whatsoever on the issue, on April 22 of this year Robert finally wrote directly to his adversary, Leviton’s Pierre Desilets;
“I have spent the last couple of months jumping through hoops and trying to change my design to conform to the changed Code. I am frustrated because [the Code section] was such a clean bit of code and was the only reason that I managed to get a distributor.
“The distributor has dropped me because ‘if they can change the code in Canada what is stopping them from changing the code in The USA?’ From the outside this is what the situation looks like:
“I take my invention to a Lab to be tested. The Lab sends my invention information to the Technical Committee to see which standard would apply. The technical Committee is [a company and] Leviton, two very large manufacturers that have 60 products between them that [my product] would threaten.
“The CEC Code is also changed by the same members as the technical committee but the kicker is that I am on the committee for changing the Code […] but I don’t find out about the changes until the changes are made public.
“This has left me in a bind, I am unable to move forward with my product and I am unable to start on a new project until this is cleared up.
“So I plan on making it my full time job to see to it that this does not happen again. I will spend all my time and energy bringing to light the loophole for corruption in the CEC.”
Leviton’s Desilets responded;
“Concerns about the actions of members of, and participants to, the CEC are what we qualify as governance issues. Governance issues within the CEC are the responsibility of the CEC governors: please address yourself about those specific concerns to the executive secretary of the CEC so that the governors of the CEC are duly notified of your concerns and can address accordingly.”
Can you just sense the smugness? As Robert said, “This really sounds like Pierre knows he is above the law.” Yes, that’s it exactly.
For years now, the CSA has indeed been above the law. Robert’s experience is worryingly typical. New products are regularly excluded from the market by companies on committee that make competing products, they’re using the CSA’s regulatory authority to advance their commercial interests. That’s why these companies are willing to pay CSA to get on committees.
The notion of amending legislation in secret meetings is pretty banana-republic to start with, but to exclude specific members of that same Committee in order to ruin their businesses through the actions of that Committee is beyond the pale.
Further, the CSA requirement that businesses have to give samples of their new products in development to their competitors on CSA committees, and worse, that their competitors have the power to adjudicate on the permissibility of competition against them, is neither a clean nor objective regulatory process.
Consider; if the government gave Chrysler a veto over the new vehicle development of their competitors, how would Ford respond? And if that system was retained, how many new Ford products would be produced?
In all of this, the whole point of creating CSA as a Federal Agency was to provide an independent, objective regulatory body to make standards for the safety of products in use by the Canadian public.
In democratic societies, the rule of law cannot be for sale, nor can it be owned, nor can it be manipulated by legislators for private profit. Yet we have each of these problems in CSA.
There is a growing need to restore CSA to the rule of law in the interest of all Canadians. Do you have data that could help? Contact us today.