Province urged to deal with shale-gas protests
St. Thomas University journalism professor says 'crisis is in the air' over shale gas
The New Brunswick government is being urged to try and address the growing anti-shale gas protests in Kent County.
There have been at least 21 people arrested at various demonstrations in the last two weeks in eastern New Brunswick.
Bernard Richard, a former education minister and provincial ombudsman, has dealt with public opposition to government policies.
He said when an issue boils over, it is important that political leaders get personally involved in the situation.
Richard said a personal approach worked for such leaders, such as former U.S. president Bill Clinton, to address public controversies.
"Can the premier, this premier, do that as effectively? I don’t know how many million-dollar questions, you know, but it is an important question and I think we are at that point actually."
Michael Camp, professor of journalism at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, said the provincial government did not address the public outcry over shale gas development even though it was warned to take action.
"I think there is something of a crisis in the air right now," Camp said.
"They said they consulted, they had conversations with people but a lot of people said they didn’t like fracking and even the report that the government commissioned by Louis Lapierre said we should go ahead with it but there’s significant public opposition out there, which must be dealt with and it wasn't dealt with."
The Kent County protests are in response to seismic testing being conducted by SWN Resources Canada.
The company is trying to determine if there is a viable shale gas industry in the area. The company is not hydraulic fracturing.
Hydro-fracking is a process where exploration companies inject a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into the ground, creating cracks in shale rock formations to extract natural gas from areas that would otherwise go untapped
Opponents are concerned the process will ruin the water supply.
Protests continued on Monday
Demonstrators remained camped out on Monday near a field along Route 126.
Yellow boxes and cables continue to line Route 126, but SWN's seismic testing trucks are not in the area.
Many of the protesters have been asking for a meeting between the provincial government, SWN Resources Canada and First Nation representatives.
Protesters say the company has halted seismic testing until a meeting can be held on Wednesday.
The provincial government wouldn't comment on the proposed meeting and SWN did not respond to repeated calls to confirm Wednesday's meeting.
Elsipogtog First Nation members attending the meeting say they have promised the provincial government and SWN they will not talk to the media until the meeting is over.
Meanwhile, some demonstrators say they feel left in the dark about the meeting.
"What I am afraid of is that economic interests will be placed above the protection of our waters and our lands," said Willie Nolan.
Susan Levi-Peters, member of Elsipogtog First Nation and a former chief, said she’s concerned about the lack of information about the meeting.
"It's the people that are getting chucked in jail. And yet when it comes down to sitting down and talking about it, they're excluded and they are not even informed?" she said.