New Brunswick

Fracking protesters target Tory convention

A handful of protesters showed up at the annual meeting of the provincial Progressive Conservative Party in Fredericton on Friday.

A handful of protesters showed up at the annual meeting of the provincial Progressive Conservative Party in Fredericton on Friday.

They stopped party members who were on their way in to a Fredericton hotel to distribute information about the controversial shale gas drilling method, known as hydro-fracking.

The exchanges between the party members and the protesters were mostly polite.

Terry Daniels, a party member who works in the mining industry, said he knows he can't persuade the activists that fracking can be done safely.

"It's one of them debates you can't win. If you're against it, you're against it, and you got your mind made up. So how do I change your mind if it don't matter what I say?" Daniels said.

Angie Acquin, an anti-fracking activist, said it's a good time for protesters to remind the Tories how they won power.

"Trying to show the government that we are the people who voted you in, and we have a say. And that we should have a say in what's happening," Acquin said.

The protesters were asked by the Fredericton Police, on behalf of hotel staff, to leave the property.

They moved to the sidewalk near the hotel entrance.

Continuing controversy

Hydro-fracking has transformed into one of the most controversial issues facing Premier David Alward's Progressive Conservative government.

The provincial government announced new regulations in June that will force mining companies to conduct water tests prior to when work starts and set up a security bond to protect homeowners from any potential accidents.

Even with those changes, there have been many protests in communities across the province.

One company, SWN Resources Canada, announced it was halting seismic testing for the rest of 2011.

The company blamed the decision on the vandalism, theft and threats it has experienced in recent months.

Alward has said that he wants to raise the public's comfort level with the mining practice.

Corporate Research Associates poll released in September showed that the provincial government has some work to do in order to convince people of the merits of hydro-fracking.

The poll showed respondents in Moncton and Saint John were less concerned about the idea of exploring for natural gas. However, there was stronger opposition to the process of shale gas exploration and hydro-fracking.

In a recent interview, Alward drew a direct link between allowing shale gas exploration and his government’s ability to pay for new programs that fight poverty.

Alward said the provincial government needs more money from resource development to help pay for the programs that will extend prescription drug coverage to low-income earners and offer low-income children dental and vision benefits.

He would not put a dollar figure on how much revenue shale gas could generate for New Brunswick. He said that's why exploration needs to continue.

In the hydro-fracking process, companies extract petroleum using a pressurized mix of water and other substances injected into shale rock formations or coal beds.

That high-pressure mix creates or widens fissures in the rock, so gas or oil can escape from pores and fractures