Recent comments by Premier David Alward about shale gas exploration in B.C. have left some residents there hoping they didn't leave him with the wrong impression during a meeting earlier this summer.
Alward has described the operations in northeastern British Columbia as "actually going very well" when asked about recent anti-shale gas demonstrations in New Brunswick. He toured a shale gas operation in the Horn River Basin, near Fort Nelson while he was in the province for the annual meeting of premiers.
Lana Lowe, director of the lands department for the Fort Nelson First Nation, who was at the meeting with Alward, said a few members of the community are benefiting financially. But many people aren't comfortable with the development, she said.
"It's a huge environmental issue," said Lowe. "The government doesn't know the impacts, we don't know what the impacts are going to be.
'Common sense tells us that it's not sustainable, it's not healthy, and yet it's being done... with the blessing of the government.' —Lana Lowe, Fort Nelson First Nation
"Common sense tells us that it's not sustainable, it's not healthy, and yet it's being done... with the blessing of the government."
Fort Nelson Mayor Bill Streeper, who also attended the meeting with Alward, has a different perspective on the development.
"When I look at how many people — you know, we're a town of 6,800 people — are being supported by the oil and gas industry, we've got to look at it and say 'OK, let's look at this industry, and how can we monitor and control this industry for the benefit.'"
There have not been any issues related to environmental problems to date, according to Alex Ferguson, B.C.'s oil and gas commissioner.
Alward has said there will be no ban on shale gas exploration in New Brunswick despite three days of blockades and protests around the province last week. The economic potential of natural gas has to be considered when discussing the contentious issue, he has said.
The string of protests started on Aug. 9, when opponents to shale gas exploration blockaded vehicles owned by Southwestern Resources Canada for two days. The vehicles were carrying seismic testing equipment. Seismic testing is performed to see if there are any natural gas deposits underground.
Opponents worry that if gas deposits are found, companies will attempt to get at those reserves by using the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing, or hydro-fracking.
Hydro-fracking uses water mixed with chemicals and sand and allows companies to access natural gas deposits, which opponents fear will ruin local water supplies.
On Aug. 11, demonstrators crowded into the lobby of the Centennial Building, the main government office building in Fredericton, demanding to speak with Alward. The premier was in Blacks Harbour, so the protestors were given 15 minutes with the province's natural resources minister Bruce Northrup instead.