It’s a shame to have to write this letter.
On Thursday, May 10, I participated in a debate in Fredericton concerning shale gas.
The debate sponsors invited the Premier, Ministers of Natural Resources, Environment and Energy, and the Natural Gas Working Group to represent the other side, along with shale industry spokesmen.
This debate was in response to Premier Alward’s statement that the government would hold public information sessions to inform and listen to the public.
Since no such sessions have taken place, Friends of the UNB Woodlot decided to get the ball rolling before the municipal elections. They structured a moderated debate with formal time limits and rules, where all questions would come from the public audience.
Unfortunately, no one from either government or industry chose to attend. The debate went on, however.
One of the sponsors filled in for government and industry by quoting from their official statements. The audience’s questions were informed, covered interesting new topics (such as concerns for emergency first responders) and elicited detailed responses from the other side.
While the government should feel ashamed, more shameful was the total absence of the mainstream press. The public neither heard what the panelists discussed nor learned that their elected officials didn’t have the courage to show up for a real public discussion.
I appreciate that editorial staff in the media have presented the views of the shale gas opposition, though almost always in an opinion/editorial context. But, this was a news story in every sense of the word.
Just a photograph of the empty table with the name cards of the missing government and industry personnel would capture the current status of the shale gas issue better than all the opinions expressed in the last six months.
This failure by the press can only foster further unaccountability in the government — not a pleasant thought to contemplate in a democracy.
Fortunately, the debate was covered by independent media and appears on their sites and YouTube. Perhaps the authorities at mainstream New Brunswick news organizations can explain to the public why they chose not to cover this event.