The New Brunswick government says it will push forward with a new environmental protection plan that will cover the shale gas industry.
The Alward government confirmed the plan Wednesday, as Lt. Gov. Graydon Nicholas read the throne speech inside the legislative assembly, only a few metres away from a group of anti-shale gas protesters.
The government has been facing considerable pressure from anti-shale gas protesters on its policy for several months. A small group of civil servants was pulled together earlier this year to draft it.
"The work of this group will result in an Environmental Protection Plan identifying immediate, intermediate and longer-term actions to ensure New Brunswick is positioned to protect citizens and their property as well as the vital aspects of our shared environment," the throne speech said.
Meanwhile, outside the legislature, hundreds of protestors erected a four-storey high mockup of a drilling rig made of plastic pipe and peppered the grounds with hundreds of fake survey stakes bearing mottos such as "No shale gas."
A smaller group of protesters had been camped out on the lawn of the legislature since Saturday.
Chief Candice Paul of St. Mary's First Nation told cheering protestors that existing exploration licences for shale gas are illegal because the province did not consult First Nations before issuing them.
She wants the province to revoke them. Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup said Wednesday he will look into Paul's claim.
The first phase of the government's new environmental protection plan will be released in the spring of 2012, according to the throne speech.
The speech continues to reinforce the government’s message that it wants to ensure citizens have all the information they need to understand the natural gas sector.
Also on the legislature grounds Wednesday were busloads of government workers represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). They were protesting against government cuts to jobs and health care.