Federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver says the national economy is in recovery and if New Brunswick wants to follow suit, shale gas may be its best bet.

Oliver made the comments while addressing business leaders at a Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Thursday.

He spoke about negotiations for a free trade deal with the European Union and outlined his government's economic accomplishments.

Federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver

Federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver strayed from his prepared speech at a Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Thursday to talk about shale gas. (Lindsay Michael/CBC)

But then strayed from his prepared speech to weigh in on the contentious shale gas issue, following comments by Premier David Alward.

"As the premier mentioned, New Brunswick has significant shale gas reserve potential. It's up to the province to decide whether to develop them," Oliver told the crowd at the Delta Beausejour.

Speaking to members of the media later, Oliver said that the provinces with the most prosperity are also the provinces that have natural resources.

New Brunswickers should look closely at the industry's track record in other provinces when deciding whether to pursue the shale gas industry, he said.

'It's been going on for over 50 years. One hundred and seventy five thousand wells have been drilled using [hydraulic] fracking. Not a single instance of drinkable water contamination..'- Federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver

"Environmental safety is, of course, a precondition," said Oliver.

"If you look, however, at shale gas development in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan, it's been going on for over 50 years. One hundred and seventy five thousand wells have been drilled using [hydraulic] fracking. Not a single instance of drinkable water contamination."

In January, Nova Scotia's Environment Minister confirmed a leak of between 6,000 and 14,000 litres of fracking waste at that province's only operation.

Randy Delorey said the wastewater escaped from a holding pond in Kennetcook and some of it ran into a nearby brook.

Oliver stressed that developing shale gas reserves remains a provincial decision.

"If the objective, scientific, independent analysis says that there isn't going to be damage, then we're in a position to approve it," he said.

The New Brunswick premier has said repeatedly his government plans to pursue development of the shale gas industry in New Brunswick.

He reiterated his stance during Thursday's luncheon.

"Say yes to shale gas jobs and prosperity," said Alward. "As premier, I think it would be irresponsible to not take advantage of the natural resource opportunities we have before us today."