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Comments from New Brunswick’s premier indicating he’s prepared to steamroll over Indigenous objections to fracking caused ripples in the Legislative Assembly on Friday, prompting the province’s Aboriginal affairs minister to make opposing promises on consultation.

Also at the assembly, Green Party Leader David Coon tabled a bill to end fossil fuel development. The bill was tabled with “urgency,” he said after Premier Blaine Higgs said he would pursue fracked gas development with or without First Nations' consent. The comments came while Higgs is away in Europe signing energy agreements and promoting fracked gas. Mi'kmaw and Wolastoqey communities in the province came forward and criticized Higgs for dodging his responsibility to consult Indigenous communities.

“The International Energy Agency has made it clear: we cannot have any new fossil fuel infrastructure if we are going to meet net-zero emissions goals by 2050,” said Coon. “The premier still seems hellbent on creating a fracking industry in New Brunswick, so I’m proposing legislation to keep the gas in the ground.”

According to a press release from the Wolastoqey Nation — which represents the Matawaskiye (Madawaska), Wotstak (Woodstock), Neqotkuk (Tobique), Bilijk (Kingsclear), Sitansisk (St. Mary's) and Welamuktok (Oromocto) First Nations — Higgs told business publication allNewBrunswick if First Nations don't want to be involved in fracking, “there comes a time when you just gotta find a way to move on.”

Mi'kmaw and Wolastoqey communities in the province were quick to denounce Higgs’ comments. Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn Inc., a group representing the nine Mi’gmaq communities in New Brunswick, said rather than committing to consultation, the province was trying to force “First Nations leaders to sign agreements supporting development without consultation.”

In April 2022, Quebec became the first jurisdiction in the world to ban oil and gas development in its borders, and Coon hopes New Brunswick can follow the province.

“I was flabbergasted to hear Premier Higgs say that he is willing to move forward on fracking regardless of what First Nations think,” said Coon.

“That shows to me the urgency of getting this bill into the Legislative Assembly as soon as possible.”

There was a back and forth in the legislature on Friday morning between Green Party MP for Kent North, Kevin Arseneau, and Arlene Dunn, minister of Aboriginal affairs.

Comments from New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs indicating he’s prepared to steamroll over Indigenous objections to fracking caused ripples in the Legislative Assembly on Friday.

Arseneau denounced Higgs saying he was willing to skirt around First Nations to pursue fracking.

“Is there even a process in place for meaningful consultation? Not only because it's constitutionally needed. (Is there) meaningful consultation with First Nations?” said Arseneau.

“Does the minister of Aboriginal affairs think this is an acceptable way of communicating with First Nations in New Brunswick?”

Arlene Dunn, minister of Aboriginal affairs for New Brunswick, at the Legislative Assembly on May 12, 2023. Screenshot of Legislative Assembly

While Dunn refused to respond specifically to Higgs’ comments, she assured Arseneau that fracked gas would not be developed without “meaningful discussions and consultation” with First Nations. Fracked, or shale, gas is extracted through a drilling process that injects water, chemicals and sand underground at extremely high pressures. The fossil fuel is made up mostly of methane.

“I am the minister responsible for the file. It will be done respectfully, meaningfully and in conjunction with First Nations,” Dunn said.

The Wolastoqey Nation put out another press release on Friday supporting Dunn’s comments and calling for follow-through.

“This is a brave stance for Minister Dunn to take against her boss, and we hope she can muster support from her caucus colleagues when Premier Higgs returns from Europe,” said Chief Allan Polchies Jr. of Sitansisk, St. Mary’s First Nation.

“We look forward to the ‘meaningful consultation’ the minister promised.”

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I'm going to be blunt. N.B. Progressive Conservative Premier Higgs seems like a fossil fuel industry dream come true push over. Someone should sit him down along with DougFord and Danielle Smith and give them a 1/2 hour primer on the climate crisis. Knowing that the same type of backward thinking is as we speak wrestling to gain control of the Canadian government in the next election should be a big red flag for anyone who cares about the environment.

We live in a world besotted by power of any kind. The power to control all life forces even if it means contempt for life. Russia, China, America, UK, Canada, Afghanistan, Turkey, and so on. Each nation and each battle is named by its specific location, but globally, the human has fixated on the grandeur of force.

Premier Higgs is living in the past and will drag the province of New Brunswick with him. Development of natural gas (methane) for export is years away and by then Europe will have moved increasingly towards renewables. The UK is already deriving more energy from wind than oil and gas. Fact is solar and wind are far less expensive and price differential will only increase with time. Higgs will end up with a stranded resource no one wants and the taxpayers will foot the bill.

You may be right about Higgs and NB, but someone is going to be supplying the UK and the EU with gas for years to come. According to the UK Office of National Statistics:

'The UK imported £19.6 billion of gas in 2021; a notable increase of 312% from £4.8 billion in 2020.'

The demand is there, the question is who will supply it?

Blip? Or trend? This statement needs context.
What are the data points in adjacent years? What was the value of other energy sources? What proportion of the annual energy budget does fossil gas make up?
And no, I'm not going to supply those figures. The burden of proof is on the original poster.

The EU has 'crisis' of last winter failed to come to pass due to relatively mild winter and a rapid expansion in gas import capacity. That doesn't mean the EU demand for gas has gone away, but Germany has also used more coal as they foolishly shut down nuclear plants. Gas remains a lower carbon emitter than coal and there will be an EU market for gas for years to come. Whether NB has a role in providing some of that supply is another question. It would take at least a few years of negotiations to get FN consent. Then there's the current lack of export facilities. The owner of the Saint John import terminal has balked at the cost of conversion to export. I think Higgs wasting time on this, it's dead.