A professor at St. Thomas University has urged that the province of New Brunswick should not feel pressured to develop its shale gas industry.
Tony Tremblay, Canada Chair in New Brunswick Studies, addressed the issue of corporate “blackmail” in a recent editorial, saying it implies N.B. has no right to partner with others if it does not develop its own deposits.
“What the overheated rhetoric obscures is that New Brunswickers want what is best for their province,” Tremblay said. “Not what is best for corporations at the expense of New Brunswick, but what is best for New Brunswick in equal partnership with corporations.”
Exploration of shale gas was encouraged by the previous Conservative government of Premier David Alward. In October 2013, a demonstration against shale gas near Rexton turned violent, resulting in five RCMP cars burned and 40 arrests.
Tremblay said the implications of governments who favour those with similar ideas is worrisome for those in economic barrens.
“When a narrow-minded agenda is aligned squarely with the interests of resource-extracting economies then non-resource extracting economies such as New Brunswick must develop their own policies in overheated and often coercive environments,” he said.
Soon after the Liberal government was elected in the fall of 2014, it legislated a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for shale gas. A three-member commission was named to investigate and make recommendations, such as new regulations for the industry and feedback from consultations with First Nations representatives. Its findings are expected to be reported to the legislature by the end of March.
Premier Brian Gallant cannot commit to a decision until the panel reports. Despite this, editorials in the Irving-owned Brunswick News Inc. newspapers Monday are already calling for a lift of the moratorium as soon as possible.
Tremblay stressed that the alternative to this blackmail from corporations is a responsible and respectful dialogue with New Brunswickers.
“New Brunswickers await clear and honest answers to legitimate questions,” he said. “In an absence of these answers…New Brunswickers will continue to be skeptical of the shale gas agenda.”
He also said that the threats and continued insults will never be enough and will not win the long argument.
“What New Brunswickers have been asking for all along, and what our leaders seem strangely incapable of providing, is transparency and forthrightness,” Tremblay said. “If there is a moratorium on anything in this province, the moratorium on transparency is surely the longest-lived.”
Originally written for a class at St. Thomas University.