David Campbell

Economic development consultant David Campbell told Saint John council it will have to show leadership if it wants to see shale gas development move forward in New Brunswick. (CBC)

Economic consultant David Campbell says without the support of local governments it's unlikely there will ever be a shale gas industry in New Brunswick.

He brought that message to Saint John council on Monday night, saying it has been very difficult to get that support from local politicians.

"A lot of municipalities around the province are very reluctant to support oil and gas development," Campbell said. "And why? Because they're getting phone calls from their residents."

Campbell is open about the fact that he is a supporter of natural gas exploration in New Brunswick.

He says it could provide decades of high paying work, although he also acknowledges that the public hasn't been convinced.

"I can't believe, if local government in New Brunswick is not supportive of shale gas across the province — in majority, I would have a hard time seeing the industry go forward."

Consensus on shale gas among Saint John area municipalities unclear

Saint John and the suburban town of Rothesay have both passed motions in support of shale gas exploration, however Quispamsis passed a motion in 2012 opposing shale gas exploration within town limits.

Mel Norton

Saint John Mayor Mel Norton supports the development of a shale gas industry and says the city has the support of surrounding communities. (CBC)

Quispamsis Mayor Murray Driscoll says his council is against it because of concerns around residential water wells.

Driscoll says every community has to make its own decision about shale gas exploration and development.

"I cannot decide for Saint John, or Rothesay or Hampton or anywhere else," he said.

But Saint John Mayor Mel Norton suggested on Monday night that his city now has the support of the town of Quispamsis for its motion in support of the industry.

"That was passed unanimously," Norton said, referring to a January vote at a meeting of the Fundy Regional Commission, in which he says Quispamsis voted in favour of shale gas exploration.

Campbell told Saint John council it will have to speak up in favour of the industry and show leadership if it wants to see it move ahead. 

He says municipal politicians are closest to the people and shouldn't expect the provincial government to win the public over on its own.