New Brunswick now has a Progressive Conservative government in place, under the leadership of pro-fracking and pro-Energy East pipeline Blaine Higgs. Despite having a minority government, they were able to have secure support from the three MLA’s from the People’s Alliance of NB to pass the speech from the throne and have the confidence of the legislature. So the roller coaster of provincial politics seems to have stabilized for the time being, and instead has shifted to the hot topic of fracking or shale gas.
"Justice for Penobsquis", a small community in south west NB that has experienced water issues from fracking wells owned by Corridor Resources.
Opposition to fracking in New Brunswick gained international attention after an encampment of Indigenous, Acadian and Anglophone opposition was raided at gunpoint by RCMP in the Rexton area of Sikniktuk district of Mi’kmaki (Kent County on the east coast of New Brunswick). Grassroots groups opposing fracking were established all across the province, raising awareness of their concerns and the science around fracking.
Indigenous title and duty to consult have not been considered in this last-minute amendment to the speech to the throne by Higgs promising a partial lifting of the current fracking moratorium, with this territory being unceded and falling under treaties of peace and friendship and the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The opposition to SWN’s attempt to complete seismic testing in 2013 was led by Elsipogtog leadership, both grassroots and elected, and by all indications they will be vocally opposed again this time.
The current moratorium on fracking in NB was established when the Liberals Brian Gallant won the election in 2014, but Higgs is arguing the community of Sussex and surrounding area support fracking. A measurement for community consent has not been established and when MLAs visited Sussex and Penobsquis this past Tuesday morning, they were reminded that fracking opposition is still strong. Also earlier this week, the chair of the Sussex LSD (local service district, a form of rural government in NB where there is no Municipal government) questioned how provincial politicians concluded there was community support for fracking when there have been no town halls or consultation in the district, and that no one had even asked him.
The Council of Canadians was very active in the movement opposing fracking when it was in high gear a few years back, and we will certainly be there again this time. All four New Brunswick chapters of the Council are activating again to try and stop it before it starts, with members organizing rallies, fundraising for radio ads, participating in actions, and organizing strategy sessions. The New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance, the New Brunswick Environmental Network and the Conservation Council of NB are strong allies in the province who have also been mobilizing people to write their MLAs and publishing commentary on the lack of a business case for the industry in 2018 or the future.
The late Crystal Cookson of the Moncton Chapter poses with members of the Mi'kmaq Warrior Society at the Rexton camp back in 2013.
Ultimately, this is another pro-fossil fuel government trying desperately to boost the local economy in the short term to help get re-elected. This off of a dying industry, in an era where the latest IPCC report could not be much more direct: we have 12 years to make dramatic changes to the status quo or the damage to the planet will be irreversible. Now all we need are real leaders with the political will to look beyond the next election and formulate a plan for a just transition by investing in renewables and the green energy economy, training for workers and .