Any doubt the Higgs government may have had about the strength of the opposition to fracking was dispelled over three days earlier this week.
On Wednesday, June 5, the CBC reported that the Mi’kmaq chiefs were “blindsided” by the government’s plan to lift the moratorium in the Sussex area, with Chief George Ginnish of Natoaganeg First Nation stating that the leaders should have been consulted prior to the government’s action. Jim Emberger of the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance was also quoted in the CBC story suggesting legal action would be taken against the government if fracking went ahead.
The next day, the fracking issue dominated question period in the Legislature, with Liberal MLA Lisa Harris (Miramichi Bay-Neguac) referencing the statement by the Mi’kmaq leaders and demanding to know why First Nations had not been consulted.
Green Party MLA Kevin Arseneau (Kent North) questioned if the Liberal party genuinely believed in the moratorium, given that it was enacted only as a regulation that could be changed by the cabinet. Arseneau asked the government for clarification on the exact boundaries of the region where the moratorium is being lifted, to allow the residents in those areas to:”start organizing and voicing their concerns.”
Arseneau also asked about the government’s discussions with Corridor Resources given that in December, the fracking company said that in order to expand in New Brunswick, they would need changes to regulations around wastewater storage, transportation, treatment and disposal. “What concessions has the premier made or intends to make with Corridor to weaken regulations in order to meet their demands?” he asked.
Then on Friday, June 7, the Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick (WNNB) issued a statement signed by all the Chiefs strongly opposing the province’s “secret lifting of the fracking moratorium” in the Sussex area.
Madawaska Chief Patricia Bernard warned: “If the Province does not correct course quickly, my Nation will be examining all of its options for dealing with this serious breach of our rights.”
St. Mary’s Chief Allan Polchies Jr.: “My community and my Nation oppose any hydrofracking activities in our Territory. Water is one of our most precious resources. Our harvesting rights, our culture, our wellbeing depend on clean water. Fracking creates risks to our water that are simply too high to make this activity worthwhile.”
Also this week, the Conservation Council of New Brunswick issued a strong statement against the government’s action, stating that none of the conditions for lifting the moratorium have been met.
Corridor Resources and the government have both asserted that fracking would not begin before 2021. However on June 6, Premier Higgs stated in the legislature that fracking was a key part of the government’s economic development plan moving forward. He said that “we have an LNG plant in New Brunswick that could have an eight or nine million dollar conversion, but to make that happen, we need a gas supply, and we could have that here in New Brunswick.”
Susan O’Donnell is a member of the NB Media Co-op editorial board and a researcher on the RAVEN project.