By Cheryl Norrad
Southwest Miramich MLA Jake Stewart, above, is pro-shale gas. (Photo: Progressive Conservative Part of New Brunswick website)
FREDERICTON - Southwest Miramichi MLA Jake Stewart told The Purple Violet Press this evening he plans to coordinate more information meetings on the shale gas issue in his riding during fall, although a date has yet to be set. Both Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup and Environment Minister Margaret Ann Blaney will be invited to attend and answer any questions the public has on the topic of shale gas.
"The meetings are going to happen. We are planning for fall," he said.
Although Stewart hasn't spoken to either minister since late June, he said they were willing to attend meetings in his riding at that time and feels confident they will do so in the fall.
Ideally, Stewart said he wants to hold at least two meetings in his riding before the Legislature resumes in November.
"I want the meetings by the end of November before the Legislature goes back in session," he said.
There had been some rumblings among some of Stewart's constituents that the promise he made back in the spring to hold the meetings in the summer were just lip service to placate protesters in the riding who are against shale gas. However, Stewart states he delayed the meetings at the request of Bradley Wood and Clark Wilson, members of the Upper Miramichi Stewardship Alliance, who told Stewart in a meeting at his constituency office in July they needed more time to prepare for the meetings.
"Out of respect for their request, I didn't schedule any meetings for August," he said.
Stewart said more communication on the topic from government and elsewhere need to be done because the development of the industry in New Brunswick is going to be a long process. Right now fracking wells is a few years down the road and since technology in the fracking process has improved, he feels confident it is safer than in the past.
"It's not as bad as mining and smelting were for the province's environment years ago," he said.
The MLA for Southwest Miramichi has had many constituents in his office hungry and out of work. This compels Stewart to take a stand and support the burgeoning shale gas industry in the province.
"I have over 400 coming to my office who need a job to eat or will be moving out west to work and support their families," he said.