Premier David Alward is not shifting his government's position on shale gas exploration despite three days of blockades and protests around the province.

Demonstrators crowded into the lobby of the Centennial Building, the main government office building in Fredericton, on Thursday demanding to speak with Alward.

Alward was not in the city so Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup addressed the crowd. Despite his willingness to meet the crowd, Northrup was booed by the protesters as he left.

Alward, who spoke with reporters while travelling on the maiden voyage of the new Grand Manan ferry, said the economic potential of natural gas has to be considered when discussing the contentious issue.

The premier continued to insist there will be no ban on shale gas exploration.


Premier David Alward said the economic potential of natural gas development has to be considered. (CBC)

"We have a responsibility to all the people in New Brunswick to continue to look at the opportunities that gas development can present for our province," Alward said.

The string of protests started on Tuesday when opponents to shale gas exploration blockaded vehicles owned by Southwestern Resources Canada. The vehicles were carrying seismic testing equipment.

Seismic testing is performed to see if there are any natural gas deposits underground.

Opponents are specifically concerned if companies find gas deposits that they 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.

However, the protesters are concerned the process will ruin their local water supplies.

Both Alward and Northrup have told opponents that they must allow seismic testing to continue. They say the former Liberal government signed binding agreements for exploration with the companies.

The Alward government has imposed new regulations to ensure any exploration or extraction of gas will not harm the environment.

First Nations concerned


Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup addressed protesters on Thursday. (CBC)

Among the Alward government's new regulations, there is a commitment to communities that they will share in the profits from shale gas exploration that occurs in their area.

The provincial government is also receiving some resistance from First Nations over shale gas exploration.

St. Mary's First Nation Chief Candice Paul joined the protest at the Centennial Building on Thursday and brought a very clear message to the provincial government.

"I've been investigating hydro-fracking and today our community has released a position paper and we're telling people, the premier, minister Northrup that we're totally against this and we won't support this in our territory," Paul said.

Alma Brooks a community elder and representative of the Maliseet Grand Council, told Northrup that First Nations had not been properly consulted during the debate on hydro-fracking.

"The people in the community are in the dark about this. We have not been informed and you do not have our consent," Brooks said

Under constitutional law, governments have a duty to consult with First Nations people on issues that affect them.

Northrup said on Thursday he was told companies were speaking to First Nations.

"I will look into that situation because I was told they had talked to the First Nations. I will look into it personally and I will let you know," Northrup said.

This isn't the first time that First Nations leaders have come out in opposition to shale gas exploration or hydro-fracking.

In June, Harry LaPorte, the Grand Chief of the Maliseet Grand Council, said the controversial mining process of hydro-fracking should not be allowed in New Brunswick over fears it could harm the water supply.