Fredericton, Irving, New Brunswick, News, Politics, St. Thomas University

Professor calls pressure to develop shale ‘corporate blackmail’

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.

Irving, New Brunswick, News

Biting the Hand that Feeds: Jesse Brown vs. the Irvings

Jesse Brown told a journalism class last Thursday that he’s received a legal letter from a Brunswick News lawyer, a warning that in their view Canadaland published misleading information about the company.

“The first legal letter we’ve received at Canadaland was from, you know, billionaires,” Brown said. “So, this is Canadaland’s first rodeo.”

Jesse Brown, the host of the podcast Canadaland who broke the Jian Ghomeshi sex scandal, was in Fredericton for a taping of his podcast at St. Thomas University. The podcast critiques Canadian media and is largely fed by “disillusioned journalists”, having broken stories like that of CBC senior business reporter Amanda Lang’s conflict of interest with RBC. Before the taping, Brown met in a discussion with Jan Wong’s journalism class. He talked about the possibility of a legal battle with Brunswick News Inc. over his recent story about Larry’s Gulch, stressing that he is not going to stop investigating.

“Things that we present as questions, they are suggesting are libellous allegations. So, we asked the questions. It is unclear at what point Jamie Irving did find out that this allegedly criminal act took place.” The company is saying that they were very clear in saying that he found out about it once they launched their internal investigation, which had been prompted by Canadaland’s.

“When he found out that his employees had been part of a conspiracy to alter a government document, did he tell the authorities? So, these are questions that we have for Jamie Irving, and we’re being pressured to apologize for asking those questions, remove those questions from our website, and stop asking those questions. And we’re not going to.”

In a Brunswick News Inc. letter by ombudswoman Patricia Graham, Brown and his Canadaland land reporters were criticized. She accused Brown of “libellous innuendo”, and scorned his operation for attempting to make a deal with the Irvings.

Brown and his associates reached out to Jamie Irving for a comment on the Larry’s Gulch incident for their coverage. They said they would release a statement on Monday, and wanted Canadaland to hold off on publishing. “We’re asking them for commentary for our coverage, they want us to wait for that commentary. ‘Okay, but you’re giving us the comment.’ No deal. They wouldn’t do that, so there’s no deal!”

Brown says that the Irvings and Brunswick News wanted to have control of the narrative and break the story themselves. He stresses that the deal was never on because they didn’t agree to their terms.

“We do have to go to them and get their side of the story, but because they were not willing to meet some pretty basic conditions, it was totally on for us to say, “You know what? No, we’re publishing. You can send us the comments or published the comments whenever you like, and we will update our story to reflect your comments,’ which is exactly what we did.”

The criticism which primarily sparked the legal letter from Brunswick News were the criticisms and allegations that Brown linked Jamie Irving to the cover-ups, suggesting that he was complicit in the crime.

“We learned that this revelation [about what happened at Larry’s Gulch and with the guest lists] was brought to the attention of the publisher Jamie Irving, and what did he do? He has this conversation where what he arrives at is: he is going to put the decision about whether or not to run a story, implicating their own editor, on the editor-in-chief.”

What Jamie Irving knew for sure, Brown says, is what decision had been made. This decision was to stop covering this story. Therefore, Irving was related to who made the decision and was well aware what that decision was and didn’t say anything about it. Canadaland proceeded to write that he was “right in there in that whole mess.”

Because of what they wrote, lawyers came to Brown and Canadaland accusing them of attempting to defame Jamie Irving. He stressed that the defacing of government documents that successfully went on is, in fact, a crime. Brown says that this is just one aspect of a rather complicated story about not reporting things, actually going to the lodge in the first place, and what was actually discussed at the lodge – questions that they won’t stop searching for the answers to.

There have only been threats of legal action from Brunswick News Inc. so far.

“But I’m scared,” Brown told students. “I’m scared of having to fight a legal battle that we would win. It’s very expensive to defend yourself, and it’s incredibly time consuming and diverting from what I do every day.”

Originally written for a class at St. Thomas University.