I don’t have any new points to make on this but in light of the protest and media coverage I think it is worth restating that as far as I know there are only three jurisdictions in the world that have banned shale gas exploration and one of them, New York, is reconsidering its position.
So the question remains, why New Brunswick? Why should one of the poorest and least developed provinces (from an economic perspective) join the club of three (maybe soon to be two)?
That report out a few weeks ago from David Suzuki was critical of shale gas – but basically acknowledged it was here to stay and called for good regulations.
As you know there are certain politicians trying to whip up populist furor over this to put ideological daylight between themselves and their competition but that is a callous way – IMO – to get votes.
As I have reported here – the drilling companies are having well water tested before drilling and if there is a hint of problems, the government is well within its rights to shut things down. So why preemptively ban it? That is the question.
Some folks treat this like any other left/right or common man vs. big industry debate but it isn’t. Every single ‘have’ province in this country generates a significant amount of its government revenue and overall economic activity from natural resource royalties (mining and oil and gas mostly). New Brunswick generates less revenue from these sources than all other provinces with the exception of PEI.
If there is a viable industry there, we should try and responsibly develop it. In addition, we should be looking to find ways to use the gas to further economic development.
I’ll conclude with this. As I have said, the NB populace is cranky these days. Like Twisted Sister, they are not going to take it anymore. We saw this with toll highways, auto insurance, NB Power sale.
If you go back to the McKenna years he basically froze government spending for five years, he amalgamated municipalities, forced the RCMP on municipalities and a host of the tough measures and got elected with three strong majorities and, if I recall, left office with a 70 percent approval rating.
If Premier Alward thinks that shale gas will bring him down, I am not sure he will fall on that sword.
It’s realpolitik circa 2011.