New Brunswick

RCMP won’t disclose policing costs for shale gas protests

The RCMP is not disclosing how much it is spending to bring in additional Mounties to watch anti-shale gas protesters on Route 126.

Opposition Leader Brian Gallant is seeking information on RCMP costs

RCMP officers watch a recent anti-shale gas protest in Kent County. (Courtesy of Bill Evans)

The RCMP is not disclosing how much the police force is spending to bring in additional Mounties to oversee anti-shale gas protesters on Route 126 in Kent County.

Demonstrations have been going on for more than a week in Kent County where SWN Resources Canada is conducting seismic testing.

There have been a series of arrests for offences ranging from public mischief to damaging equipment.

RCMP Cpl. Chantal Farrah said the police force has brought in officers from across the province to monitor the protests. Farrah said the number of officers at the protests is irrelevant.

"If you're a demonstrator really, if there's two police officers there or there's 10 that shouldn't change your behaviour," she said.

"You should still be acting the same way, so don't break the law, be peaceful, be lawful and now with every situation, every incident that the police respond to we need to make sure we have the adequate resources on site in case they are required."

She said officers are neutral and there to ensure the safety of everyone.

Farrah said police have seen some criminal behaviour, although for the most part she said protesters have been peaceful and lawful.

Public Safety Minister Robert Trevors told the legislature on Thursday that there have been nine arrests in Kent County due to the ongoing protests.

Opposition Leader Brian Gallant, who represents the Kent riding, asked Trevors for additional information about the RCMP’s presence in the area.

"Of course, we did ask many questions that would help us fully understand what is happening in Kent County regarding the shale gas protest," Gallant said on Thursday.

"Of course, we would like to know how many RCMP officers, on average, have been detailed there in the last few days and weeks. We would obviously like to know how many, if any, security guards have been detailed there as well."

On Wednesday, Energy and Mines Minister Craig Leonard said companies working in the oil and gas sector must file a security plan and they are responsible for ensuring "public safety on their work sites" and would be on the hook for third-party security.

"The RCMP has been contracted by the province to provide policing services for the people of New Brunswick and to ensure the safety of the public. That is the RCMP’s responsibility," said Premier David Alward on Wednesday in response to a question from Gallant.

"This is an independent process. I have full confidence in the ability of the RCMP to provide the necessary policing to ensure that the people of New Brunswick remain safe and secure."

SWN equipment damaged

SWN Resources Canada has indicated some of its equipment has been damaged in Kent County. A vehicle owned by a contractor working for SWN Resources was seized last week and then blocked by protesters.

SWN Resources Canada is conducting seismic testing in the area to determine if it is economically feasible to set up a gas industry in the region.

A SWN Resources official estimated in April there is a 10-per-cent chance of the company being able to establish shale gas production in New Brunswick.

Some  protesters are concerned if SWN Resources does find a viable shale gas industry, it will lead to hydraulic fracturing.

Hydro-fracking involves injecting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into the ground, creating cracks in shale rock formations, enabling them to extract natural gas from areas that would otherwise go untapped.

Opponents of the process say it could have a negative effect on local water supplies and many of them have held protests across the province.