New Brunswick

Brian Gallant holds firm on hydro-fracking moratorium promise

Premier-designate Brian Gallant is not backing away from his campaign commitments on imposing a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing and lifting barriers on access to abortion.

Premier-designate also vows to move swiftly on reviewing barriers to abortion

Premier-designate Brian Gallant said he will meet with any companies that are concerned about his decision to impose a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Premier-designate Brian Gallant is not backing away from his campaign commitments on imposing a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing and lifting barriers on access to abortion.

The newly elected Liberal premier said on Wednesday morning that he will meet with any companies that are concerned about his party’s promise to bring in a moratorium on the controversial hydro-fracking process.

“There will be a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing and those businesses, I’m sure, are not surprised,” Gallant said.

“This has been talked about, discussed and debated as a province for months if not years now.”

Gallant won 27 seats in Monday's election. The Progressive Conservatives won 21 seats and the Green Party has a single seat.

He said it would be “a bit simplistic” to say his party’s election is based solely on shale gas, but he acknowledged that the moratorium was likely a “big factor.”

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Gallant said he will sit down with any companies that are affected by the moratorium policy so he can explain his policy surrounding the industry.

He said it will be up the companies to decide how they want to proceed in the future.

However, Gallant did acknowledge that it’s possible the provincial government could face a lawsuit from a company that is operating in the province.

“[A legal action] is certainly something that could become a reality. We recognize that. We will certainly meet with [shale gas companies] and we will explain why our position is what it is,” he said.

“We will certainly look to other jurisdictions that have imposed moratoriums or complete bans," such as Nova Scotia and Quebec.

"I think we have jurisdictions around us where I think we'll be able to pull some of their experiences, how exactly this should be instituted, what's the best way to go about it and what are the next steps."

David Alward’s Progressive Conservatives based their election campaign on moving forward with the shale gas industry and creating other natural resource-based jobs.

Green Party Leader David Coon said he wanted all shale gas contracts revoked and a ban on the industry.

The CBC/Radio-Canada poll released in September during the election campaign found 49 per cent of people completely or mostly supported the exploration and development of shale gas compared to 44 per cent who said they mostly or completely opposed the industry.

Further, the poll found that 81 per cent completely or mostly agree that regulations are required but they still worry about the environmental impact of shale gas. Additionally, 54 per cent say they completely or mostly agree that the exploration and production of shale gas will have negative environmental impacts that will outweigh the economic benefits.

Abortion review will start soon

The premier-designate also reaffirmed his position on breaking down barriers to abortion.

Gallant said the existing two-doctor rule in the province that is required for a woman to receive a publicly funded abortion is limiting access.

He said he will convene a group of experts, either those inside the government and perhaps some from outside, to identify the barriers to abortion.

“I have told New Brunswickers during the campaign and before and I still hold the resolve that when we do find the barriers they will be eliminated to ensure that we are respecting women’s rights,” Gallant said.

“It is something that is obviously time sensitive because of the closure of the clinic that was serving as a crutch, if you will, of the system with the clinic up in the air. This has become very timely and I have made a commitment to act swiftly.”

The Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton closed in July. The clinic said it couldn’t continue to afford performing abortions without provincial funding.

Gallant said he will push ahead with a review of what he considers unconstitutional restrictions on access, even if some of the Liberal MLAs he chooses for his cabinet oppose abortion.

"All 27 ran under the same platform and ran under the same position when it comes to women's rights," he said.

Abortion-rights group Reproductive Justice New Brunswick issued a statement on Wednesday, saying it wil press Gallant to immediately repeal the abortion restrictions.

RJNB will also continue to demand the prompt establishment of accessible medicare-funded abortion services across the province, it said.

Gallant was targeted by anti-abortion protesters during the election campaign. 

The Campaign Life Coalition Youth (CLCY) and the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (CCBR) distributed graphic postcards in various cities. 

The postcards depict the remains of a purported five-month-old aborted fetus, along with a photo of Gallant and the message: "A vote for Brian Gallant and the Liberals is a vote for this."

Gallant said the anti-abortion postcards went beyond free speech.