Reading a letter to the editor in the TJ reminded me of that old adage that where you end up has a lot to do with where you start.
Two or three years ago, most people didn’t even know that New Brunswick had a massive store of natural gas beneath our feet. It was too costly to extract so no one even bothered to discuss it.
Then, when the technology became available that would allow commercially viable extraction, instead of a broad public conversation about the best way to use this wealth under our feet for the betterment of our society – we leaped right to a frenzied and deeply confrontational debate about the specifics of the natural gas extraction techniques.
That latter discussion should have been one for engineers and water experts and technology providers – somehow it became a topic for Tim Horton’s as is now the accepted term in the vernacular.
Of course any industry and any development is fair game for Tim Horton’s but I would have hoped the conversation could have been broader with the experts weighing in on the peculiarities of things most of us will never really understand.
By way of example, imagine if we had seen the same approach with any of our industries. We would have no agriculture (too much risk of water contamination from agricultural runoff), no forestry, no fishing (still one of the most dangerous occupations around), no trucking, – not even call centres. The NFB funded a UdeM documentary of call centres that portrayed them as sweatshops creating epidemics of carpal tunnel and mental illness.
And of course the politicians jumped right into the subterfuge feet first. The New Brunswick Liberals know that there will be absolutely no large scale commercial production of natural gas (beyond Corridor which has been fracking for years) well beyond the next election. They could have taken a wait and see attitude with zero risk to the public but the politics were too juicy and now we risk alienating investment into this sector for no reason beyond crass politics. Of course, as many people view the world through partisan lenses, I feel compelled to reiterate I had the same feeling about the Tories and the sale of NB Power to Hydro-Quebec. Many of them told me privately that the sale was good for NB but the politics forced them to take the stand they did. In the end, politics is politics.
I don’t want to entice a long conversation about this except that it seems to me that if we viewed that gas as an true asset for New Brunswickers – after years of watching other provinces from Alberta to Saskatchewan to Newfoundland getting rich on oil and gas – now we have a little opportunity – and we seem to be eager to find ways to shut it down. We should be eager to make it work and if it just can’t be done safely – then reluctantly shut down.