Fredericton – Provincial government officials deny local grassroots residents group request for participation in province wide information and consultation process on shale gas development in New Brunswick.
On June 28 a letter was signed by many residents attending a crowded Ward 10 Residents Association meeting in Fredericton. The letter responded to concerns by many residents that they were not being sufficiently informed and consulted on shale gas development as originally promised by Premier David Alward in recent speeches and the election.
“Over the last several months, Fredericton residents, including those in Ward 10, have expressed concerns about not having been invited to participate in a meaningful conversation about the development and regulation of a shale gas industry in New Brunswick,” said Leah Levac, Fredericton city councillor for Ward 10. “In my conversations with residents, many have expressed a desire to receive more information about the province’s plans regarding shale gas development so that they can develop an informed opinion on the matter”.
The letter asked, “Dr. Louis LaPierre and the Natural Gas Group to meet with the Ward 10 Residents Association in Fredericton (before the end of July 2012) so our residents can be informed on shale gas regulations and have a voice in this important process.”
The following morning, the letter was mailed and emailed to the Natural Gas Group as well as copied to provincial and city politicians. On July 20th, the Ward 10 Residents Association was told that it could meet with Dr. LaPierre and the Natural Gas Group for 20 minutes. The group was also told that it would have to share the 20 minutes with the Friends of the UNB Woodlot, and that no more than three Ward 10 residents were allowed to participate.
The group feels that attempts to respond to Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup’s announcement which read, “we look forward to hearing from New Brunswickers [during Dr. LaPierre’s consultation]” (press release), and to his open invitation to any “groups or associations” to meet with LaPierre and the Natural Gas Group are being undermined.
“The shale gas public consultation tour missed a majority of our population by not even going to Moncton, Saint John or Fredericton,” said Ward 10 resident Taeyon Kim. “How can even three Ward 10 residents make any informed decision in 20 minutes shared with another group?”
The Ward 10 Residents Association will only participate in a consultation process that is democratic and transparent. On October 3rd, 2011, Alward gave a speech to the Moncton Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce and Enterprise Greater Moncton on shale gas development and the importance of public information and consultation on this issue. Alward referred to “town hall and information meetings” where MLAs could “hear directly from their constituents on this important issue.” Later in the speech he added, “It’s a discussion we as New Brunswickers all need to have.”
“I met with my MLA, Brian MacDonald, and he agreed with our request for a meeting with the Natural Gas Group, that allows residents to become fully informed and consulted on shale gas development in New Brunswick,” said Ward 10 resident Garth Hood. “He said he would do everything within his power to help us get this public meeting.”
The association fully agrees with Alward that, “It’s a discussion that we as New Brunswickers all need to have.” The association does not agree that Ward 10 residents have been given any open and democratic public opportunity for informed discussion. This is why the Ward 10 Residents Association is repeating the original request:
The Ward 10 Residents Association requests that Dr. LaPierre and the Natural Gas Group hold a public meeting within Fredericton so all residents can be fully informed and consulted on shale gas development in New Brunswick.