What went wrong with Elsipogtog?

I don’t want any snide or snarky comments to this post as this is an issue for which I am truly saddened.

The median family income on the Richibucto 15 Indian reservation is 62% below the provincial average at only  $24,500.  55% of all families are in the bottom decile of income compared to only 10 percent in New Brunswick as a whole.  There are few places in Canada as poor as Richibucto 15.

Contrast that with Fort Nelson Indian Reserve in BC where the median family income is more than double Richibucto 15.

Recently the Fort Nelson Indian Reserve  signed an agreement with the provincial government that will provide the Reserve “with a share of the revenues generated from resource development in their treaty territory, including the natural gas activities in the Horn River Basin, bringing economic opportunities and fuller participation in the economy”.  This is shale gas development.

In New Brunswick, the residents of Richibucto 15 are engaged in a massive attempt to stop seismic testing – on land outside their territory.  As reported by the CBC they believe shale gas will destroy the land, the water and now the animals too.

As I say this is truly saddening to me.  What is going on?  Is this a failure of leadership?  Media?  What?  These natural resources should be a mechanism to help raise these communities out of that poverty and cycle of dependency (35% of total income in Richibucto 15 is from government transfers compared to less than 20% on the Fort Nelson reserve).

I don’t have any answers. Maybe shale gas will destroy life as we know it even as a report today shows that as a result of shale oil and hydraulic fracturing the US will be the world’s #1 producer of oil by 2017.

I worry that this oil and gas revolution will pass us by and we might not even get a chance to determine if our gas can even be developed in the first place.

To what end?  The lawyers and former politicians are going to be fine.  The retired civil servants on full pension, fine.  It will be those living in places like Richibucto 15 that will pay the price and now they are leading the charge.

It’s days like these I regret the line of work I chose to pursue.

8 thoughts on “What went wrong with Elsipogtog?

  1. The forestry industry has made a lot of money working in the Richibucto area, as it has elsewhere in New Brunswick. I wonder how much of the wealth people on the reserve earned from that. I wonder how much the industrial activities disrupted their economy and way of life. Perhaps it’s their past experience with resource companies that leads to their scepticism and resistance today.

  2. Short answer – those guys don’t believe they will see any of the money made from shale gas. They do believe they will be affected by any environmental problems created by shale gas.

    Yes it’s a failure of leadership, none of the politicians want to talk about shale gas.

    I wouldn’t call it a failure of media, I don’t see the Irving press running front page stories every day disparaging fracking. As far as I know CBC has tried to be neutral on the topic.

    Most of the opposition seems to be organizing on Facebook or whatever, the media doesn’t have as much power to control the conversation like 20 years ago.

    There’s a grouchy reactionary mood in New Brunswick, has been for years. Toll highways, auto insurance, NB Power sale, shale gas, the latent anger zaps right onto the lightning rod issue of the day.

    Cheer up, the gas is still there. In 10 years or 20 years if we ever get some damn leadership in the province, the gas will still be waiting to develop.

  3. I can’t see the other comments, however, what is TRULY sad is the amount of misinformation out there. The reserve quite specifically said at the outset that the problem is that THERE IS NO agreement such as the one in Fort Nelson where they can benefit. They said that last spring when testing began, and the government ignored them. At that point the call went out to ‘warriors’ and the protest became more focused on getting them out, because it was clear there was going to be NO benefit to natives.

    Craig Leonard said straight out in the spring that the government’s view was that INFORMING native groups was the same as consultation, he said that, you can go read it at the CBC site from last May. You are right about the poverty, but at the same time, natives have a VERY different idea about poverty, the greatest poverty is injustice. Richibucto is also a heavily forested area, yet how much benefit have they seen from forestry? It’s true that there are some who see the water and pollution aspect as a game ender, but from the outset it was stated that this was a ‘whats in it for me’ protest. In short, in a negotiation, two sides have to make an offer. In response to that last spring,the government ignored them and has basically said that maybe they might get some jobs out of it.

    THAT is what is truly sad.

  4. But PS, at THIS point I definitely have to counter that and say that this is “What went RIGHT at Elsibogtog”. Hopefully out of this will come some government policies which make some sense.

  5. This is indeed a failure in leadership.

    The premier and energy minister need to appoint a native advocate who would have a key role in signing off on any “deals” with SWN or any other organization that would explore or frack in the area. Quite frankly, if there is ANY risk to the environment, the economic benefits that would normally go to the provincial gov’t via corporate taxes should go first and foremost to the FN to help lift them out of poverty. This goes for all fracking being done in NB.

    But instead, we are seeing zero vision for this at the current time, from both the premier and the energy minister.

  6. Not sure about corporate taxes, if I sell something in New Brunswick then a percentage of what I sell is paid in tax by the consumer. SWN wouldn’t pay corporate taxes in New Brunswick as they are not located there. What accrues to government is royalties, and I agree that some should be earmarked, in fact that goes for OTHER areas besides native reserves. Look at the people in Penobsquis, for all their trouble they get very little benefit. What the companies pay in royalties goes to the provincial government, and relatively little goes back to Penobsquis.

    If rural areas could actually see concrete benefits the way individual landowners did in the US, there wouldn’t be as much protest. Rural areas usually have little provincial presence-they have lousy policing, lousy garbage pickup, no recreational facilities, often only volunteer firefighters, usually no local health care and no educational facilities. And they are being told to bear the brunt of any environmental problems, all for recompense which will mostly go to cities.

    On the native front thats a whole big issue. ALL monies that go to native peoples are from resources-NOT taxpayers, as is commonly believed. So ‘technically’ that is already happening, whether they are getting a FAIR deal is another question entirely.

  7. What if the people of Elsipogtog were successful in stopping the exploration and development of shale gas? The stated objective of protecting their air and water would be achieved (no conclusive evidence that shale gas would cause any or severe environmental damage) but what is their vision for the future? The reserve will still be impoverished. How do they envision climbing out of this situation? They can’t count on any quick solutions from government to raise them all to the middle class. The aboriginal group claims that the crown has “mismanaged” the land and they can do better. At no point in this recent fiasco have they offered to exchange an economic benefit in exchange for their environmental concerns. I trust they are sincere and not negotiating.

  8. We like to demonize oil companies but we forget we all use oil and gas. We need to look at giving people money (welfare) and how that creates a dependent relationship and lack of motivation which is the larger issue than shale gas. Not to be mean but you saw those people on the news – smoking and overweight so there are lots of issues to discuss. Also education is an issue as fracturing is safe and occurs very deep and casings are near the ground water table. We have more regs than the US. Methane is often in people’s water before drilling (baseline tests).

    80% of epis are on welfare. We all want to help the less fortunate but it seems handouts don’t work. We’d have to accept how humans actually respond (give vs teach a man to fish). Maybe they want to extort money, if we were being cynical. In Alberta the natives have oil services firms and that sounds much better doesn’t it?

    We don’t want pipelines so we get train derailments (oil is more exposed to oxygen above ground than in pipelines).

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