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Canada's federal pipeline regulator faced renewed calls for a public inquiry on Tuesday over conflict of interest allegations that prompted a small protest in downtown Montreal.

The environmentalists gathered to send their message to a federal panel, appointed by the Trudeau government, to review the regulator, Canada's National Energy Board, and come up with options to modernize its operations.

The co-chairman of the panel said the message from the Montreal protesters is similar to what as it has heard elsewhere in a cross-country consultative tour.

“The whole issue of trust, impartiality, transparency and accountability is certainly a repeated theme," said Gary Merasty, a member of the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation and a former Liberal member of Parliament. "As a panel, we hear that. We’re certainly taking note of that and it will be seriously considered in the final drafting of the report.”

A strange taxi accident disrupted the early morning protest as a driver crashed into the hotel hosting the consultations. No one appeared to be seriously injured, but there was damage to the hotel's entrance. Protesters later attempted to make their way up into the consultation session. They were briefly denied entry into the hotel, but allowed in after panel co-chair Hélène Lauzon intervened.

Montreal environmentalists called for a public inquiry on Tuesday into Canada's pipeline regulator. Video by Clothilde Goujard

The activists have been calling for a formal investigation since August in the wake of revelations that high-ranking members of the regulator, the National Energy Board, met privately with a consultant for a pipeline company TransCanada, even though it was supposed to be leading an impartial review of the company's proposed Energy East project.

The Board members who participated in the meeting soon recused themselves from the process, explaining that they hadn't known that the consultant, former Quebec premier Jean Charest, was working for TransCanada at the time of the meeting.

"Right now, the process is dubious and I think we need to restore public trust in these types of reviews," said Normand Beaudet, an environmentalist from the group Action Environnement Basses Laurentides.

Charest was not a registered lobbyist, and he has denied breaking any rules.

Jean Charest, NEB, National Energy Board, Charest affair, Energy East
Jean Charest, NEB, National Energy Board, Charest affair, Energy East
Montreal environmentalists deliver an anti-pipeline message outside a downtown hotel on March 28, 2017 to a federal panel reviewing the mandate Canada's energy regulator. Photos by Clothilde Goujard