Collette – Municipal leaders meeting in Collette have demolished claims by Premier David Alward’s Conservative government of support for its shale gas policy in Kent County.
In front of an enthusiastic, overflow crowd that spilled into the parking lot July 18, the Kent County Regional Services Commission (RSC) voted 14-1 to ask the Alward regime for a moratorium on shale gas development in New Brunswick. The 16-member RSC is composed of six mayors representing town councils and 10 chairpersons representing Local Service Districts (LSDs).
The lopsided vote in Collette puts town councils and LSDs in Kent County “on the same page” with protesters demanding a halt to shale gas activity in the province, and with the Association of Francophone Municipalities that called for a moratorium in 2011 . St. Paul mayor Marc Henri has expressed his personal support for the moratorium, which would have made the vote 15-1, but, as the chairperson of the meeting, Mayor Henri did not vote.
For the beleaguered, first-term Conservative government, the RSC’s overwhelming rejection of shale gas mirrors petitions collected earlier this month by volunteers going door to door. Those petitions document a tidal wave of opposition to shale gas in Kent County.
Those petitions, coupled with Thursday night’s vote, put the lie to a claim the same week by Energy and Mines Minister Craig Leonard in L’Etoile Kent, a county-wide weekly newspaper, that protesters only represented a small minority of Kent County residents.
In St. Louis de Kent, for example, 613 people or 66% of the village’s total population of 930 people signed the petition against shale gas. When children are “factored out,” the level of voting-age opposition to shale will be in the 80% – 90% range. In St. Ignace, 15 kilometers west of St. Louis, an astounding 93.5% of people on the voters’ list signed the petition.
The wave of opposition to shale gas is also sky-high in Rogersville where 75% of the population signed the petition. Like St. Louis, “factoring out” children in Rogersville means the level of opposition to shale gas among the voting population is even higher.
Similar indications of overwhelming opposition to shale gas are coming in from other communities, including Bass River area which has been the scene of vigorous protest activity this summer. So far this summer, the Alward government has responded to citizens resisting “the invasion” – as local residents describe the situation – by having the RCMP arrest 34 people.