At the opening of the provincial Legislature yesterday, up to 1500 people braved the elements and turned out for a protest rally on the grounds of the historic seat of government in Fredericton. About 1000 members of CUPE representing various workers in the health and education industries demonstrated their dislike of the Alward government's cuts to their workplaces. Along with those workers, demonstrators in the anti-shale gas movement were out in numbers ranging from 400 to 500 over the period of the day. Some of the shale gas protesters had already been on the Legislature grounds for several days after erecting and occupying a teepee there in an anti-shale gas protest last Saturday in a run-up to yesterday's rally. The Native community put up the teepee to underscore the movement's desire to stop the shale gas industry in New Brunswick. The teepee came to be seen as a unifying symbol over the ensuing days, bringing people of all different backgrounds and cultures in New Brunswick together against what they see as the threat of the shale gas industry on the province's environment. Going up alongside the teepee yesterday was a gigantic oil derrick dotted with anti-shale gas signs. Organizers said the structure symbolized what the provincial landscape would look like with large numbers of unwanted oil and gas derricks on it's surface.
Politicians of all stripes and parties came and went in and out of the Legislature building yesterday, on hand for the opening of the new session marked by the throne speech in the House read by Lt. Governor Graydon Nicholas. Many went into the crowd to listen to the concerns of the people, including Premier David Alward who was roundly booed, and it is reported, got a snowball thrown at him by an anonymous demonstrator in the crowd. Accompanying Alward was Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup, who took heat on the shale gas issue, from both demonstrators and the press. Environment Minister Margaret Ann Blaney spent time in the teepee, right up until the bells were ringing for the throne speech to start inside the Legislature, to listen to Native concerns about the effects of the shale gas industry on the province's water.
Shortly after the speech from the throne was completed and the Lt. Governor was given the ceremonial sendoff by assembled trooops, the teepee was dismantled and protesters dispersed from the Legislature grounds to waiting buses sitting in the driving snow or to clean their vehicles off in preparation for the trecherous drive home.