Tory MLA PC Kirk MacDonald supported the shale gas motion, a week after he tabled a petition against the industry. (CBC) ((CBC))

Members of the New Brunswick legislature voted on Tuesday to support the Progressive Conservative government's position on shale gas exploration.

The non-binding resolution took on symbolic importance after Tory MLA Kirk MacDonald tabled a petition with almost 16,000 names on it opposed to shale gas exploration and then said he didn't know how he'd vote on his own government's resolution.

The resolution endorses the "responsible" development of a shale gas industry with "world-class" regulations.

Premier David Alward promised a free vote on the shale gas motion last week. That commitment would have allowed Tory MLAs to vote against the shale gas motion without being penalized by the party. 

In the end, all the Progressive Conservative members, including MacDonald, voted for the resolution, while all Liberal MLAs voted against it.

The Opposition Liberals had proposed an amendment that called for a moratorium on shale gas development. However, the Progressive Conservative majority defeated that amendment.

The Alward government has consistently opposed a moratorium on the shale gas development. The government has said it would like to see if there in fact enough economic potential for the industry to actually proceed in the province.

Alward has committed to stronger regulations on the shale gas industry if it moves forward in New Brunswick. The provincial government also plans to introduce an Environmental Protection Plan in the spring.